Here is an excerpt from Angelika’s Journal. She and her mother and brother are now staying in a shelter.
Today was our last day of school before the winter break. I’m sad because I was just beginning to figure out how this school worked. Oh well.
Hey, living in this shelter at Christmas is pretty cool. Today a group from a church came here and gave us a Christmas party. We had all kinds of cakes and cookies. They had pretty napkins with holly on them. Mine was so beautiful, I didn’t use it but brought it back to our room. I’m going to keep it in my journal. They gave us presents. The girls got things in the pink bags and the boys in the blue ones. They had bags for little kids and a few for some us of us older girls. I got nail polish, hand cream, and a pretty hair clip.
I showed Mama my presents and she smiled her thin smile and said, “That’s nice.” Before the party was over, she told my brother and me to come back to the room. I don’t know why but we did as she asked us.
What do you know? We had another Christmas party. This time we got books and art supplies. Mama didn’t even come to this party because she said she had a headache. This time we had pretty red punch and green cupcakes. This is fun.
Can you believe it? More people came to the shelter today for Christmas celebrations. This time it was a group of teenagers who sang Christmas carols. I was excited about the singing until I realized that one of the singers goes to my school. I hid so she wouldn’t see me. I didn’t come forward this time to get a present.
Today the shelter had its own kind of celebration. We gathered together to read the Christmas story and then we had a nice supper together. We sang some Christmas carols and then shared favorite Christmas memories. I told about the time we had a real tree and Santa Claus came and everything. I looked over at Mama and she had tears in her eyes. I asked her what her favorite memory was. She said it was the first Christmas after I was born. She felt like she and Mary, Jesus’s mama, were sisters because they both had babies. Mama said she felt blessed. She said the words the angels said about be not afraid were very powerful for her that year. I liked that. That was a wonderful Christmas memory.
We all sat around just singing and talking quietly. The little kids, of course, were very excited and hoped that Santa Claus would find them at the shelter. Their mamas took them on to bed while the rest of us sat around feeling warm and cozy and a little sad.
Today is Christmas. The little kids were screaming early because they found the presents that Santa Claus had left them. Every kid found a least one present with his or her name on it. Some of them got big wheels, the girls got dolls with carriages. Others got board games or even game boys. Everybody got candy, fruit, and coloring books.
I didn’t even go over to the tree because I was not expecting any presents there. I knew that Mama didn’t have money for special treats like Christmas presents. But one of the ladies who works at the shelter called me over. She said, “Angelika, here’s a present with your name on it.” I looked at Mama who looked very surprised.
When I got to the tree, the lady handed me a very small box. My eyes got big. I think I mumbled thank you and then walked back over to sit with Mama and my brother, who was coloring. I very carefully opened the package. I didn’t want to rip the paper or the bow. Slowly, slowly, I got the box unwrapped. In it was a beautiful watch! It was the prettiest watch I’d ever seen. And the time was already set on it so I knew exactly what time it was. It was 10:09 when I opened the present.
I looked at Mama and said “Thank you.” My mama began crying and left the room. I was puzzled and followed her to our room.
“What’s wrong, Mama? This is the most beautiful present that I’ve ever received. I love it. Thank you.”
Mama said, “That’s just it. I didn’t get you that watch. I couldn’t afford something as nice as that. Somebody else gave you the best present you’ve ever gotten and it wasn’t your mama. But it should have been. It should have been.”
I began to take the watch off and put it back into the box. Mama saw what I was doing and said, “You stop that right this minute, girl. This is the nicest present you’ve ever gotten and just because your mama is feeling sorry for herself is absolutely no reason for you not to have nice things. You wear that watch with pride and joy. Jesus gave you that watch on his birthday. You just keep that love in your heart.”
Then she said, “Angelika, my angel, my special baby, you hand me that watch.” So I did. She took in it in her hand and closed it tight into her fist. Then she put her fist on her chest over her heart and she prayed, “Thank you, Jesus, for giving my angel this wonderful gift. Just as my hand is surrounding this watch, so my love is surrounding it and her life. May this watch remind her that every minute of her life is in your hands. When she looks at it, may she remember that her mama’s love goes round and round her just like the little hands of this watch. Thank you, Jesus, for showing us your love on this special day. Amen.”
Then she handed it back to me. I sat for a moment and then put the watch on.
If anyone ever asks me again what my favorite Christmas memory is, this is the one I’ll share.
Well, Christmas is over. Now we kids are at the shelter while our mamas take turns watching us, going to work, and taking the classes. Sometimes teens from churches come to be with us. I always find out where the church is before I join the group. If the church is far away from my school, then I figure that I won’t see anyone who might recognize me and I’ll join in. We play board games and sometimes just hang out and talk. It’s strange that I feel comfortable talking with some of these kids. I’m glad to have them around. I wish that some of them DID go to my school so then I’d have a friend there. It’s probably just as well. They might not be as nice to me at school as they are when they come to do their thing at the shelter.