n 1952, my daddy traveled with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He worked on a very large dredge vessel, and he went where it went. This meant he spent a lot of time away from our North Carolina home.
As Christmas approached, he called from Galveston, Texas. Daddy explained to my mother why he would not be celebrating the holiday with us. Money was tight and he didn’t have a way to get back to his family.
Disappointed as she was, Mother knew he was right. She also knew we would be upset, so she told my two sisters, brother and me right away. The news hit me very hard. Christmas just wouldn’t be the same without Daddy.
I knew he had tried his best.
Still, I went to bed on Christmas Eve with a heavy heart.
When we woke up on Christmas morning, Santa had come. I don’t remember what gift my brother received that year, but my sisters and I found new Dy-Dee dolls. Their dolls had a carriage to ride in, and Santa had brought mine a crib.
We were all happy with our gifts, so we went outside to play. I didn’t want Mother to see how glum I was that I couldn’t show Daddy what Santa had brought me. I could tell she was feeling sad, too.
As we were playing, I looked up and thought I saw my daddy in the distance. I ran inside to tell Mother. She did not believe me and told me not to make up stories.
But I was sure it was Daddy! My mother repeated he would have been there if he could, but it just wasn’t possible.
I turned to go back outside when I heard familiar footsteps. I ran down the stairs. Daddy was home!
As I rushed into his outstretched arms, Daddy explained that he had tried everything to get home for Christmas, but without success. At the last minute, a group of the workers had decided to drive.
But the nearest guy lived 17 miles away. So Daddy started walking on Christmas Eve until he arrived home. He had walked all night to get home to his family.
Though the presents that year were wonderful, the best gift was not found under the tree. Daddy’s special surprise made this my most memorable Christmas.