It was a cold Christmas Eve. Two brothers, Billy and Jimmy, were lying in their trundle beds trying to sleep as butterflies fluttered with excitement in their stomachs.
It was hard to sleep on Christmas Eve, knowing that Santa would soon be arriving. Billy and Jimmy’s mom, Ann, had told them that Santa only comes when he knows children are sleeping, but try as they might neither one could fall asleep.
In anxious anticipation Jimmy tiptoed out of bed to look out the window. He moved the curtain ever so slightly. He looked up in the sky and saw a big bright moon smiling back at him. He saw the stars winking overhead as if they knew something that he didn’t. He looked around at the world of white from the snow fall. Look at the clean snow, thought Jimmy, I hope Santa brings me a new sled so I can go sledding tomorrow.
“Do you see him?” A soft voice whispered from the other corner of the room.
“No” Jimmy answered disappointedly.
“Then get back to bed quickly before he figures out we’re still awake,” whispered Billy. “You know what mom said, Santa won’t come until we are asleep.”
“Do you think he really knows when we are sleeping? I mean, what if we just close our eyes and not move for a while, we would just look like we are sleeping, then maybe he’ll come.” Jimmy whispered confidentially back to Billy as he crawled back under the covers of his bed.
“I’m not sure that’s how it works,” replied Billy, “but I’m willing to try anything at this point.”
With his eyes closed tight Billy strained his ears to hear sleigh bells outside, or hooves on the roof, or stockings being filled downstairs, any noise that would indicate that Santa was there. But only silence filled the room. Finally, Billy opened his eyes. He couldn’t see anything, the moonlight that was shining into the room earlier had disappeared. The familiar howl of winter winds were screaming outside. Billy decided that the moon must have been hidden behind some clouds and the winds were bringing more snow.
“I feel like we’ve been laying here for hours,” said Billy. “It must be almost dawn.” The room lay silent still. There was no indication that his brother had heard him.
Great, Jimmy fell asleep on the job again, thought Billy as he slowly crawled out of his warm bed. The air in the room was chilly and Billy shook a little from the cold as he tiptoed across the floor to the window. As he quietly made his way to the window his foot hit something on the floor, it was fuzzy. Billy reached down and picked it up, it was a sweater. He tried to pull the sweater on over his head to stay warm, but his head wouldn’t fit through the hole. His sweater had seemed to have shrunk 3 sizes on him. It then dawned on Billy it wasn’t his sweater he was trying to squeeze into, it was Jimmy’s. Billy took the sweater off and threw it in the laundry basket by the closet. As the sweater hit the basket the sound of a soft thud filled the room.
Billy froze. That had to be the sweater hitting the basket, it just had to be.
Billy looked over at Jimmy’s bed to see any sign of him being awake and if he heard the noise too. Silence again, it must have been the sweater. Billy convinced himself that he had just thrown the sweater harder than he intended. All those push-ups must be paying off, he thought. He started tiptoeing toward the window to look for signs of Santa.
Another soft thud. Jimmy hit the wall, he hit the wall with his knee or his foot or elbow or something Billy told himself. Even though the room was chilled, Billy started sweating. He took a half step toward the window and heard another soft thud. This time the thud, even as soft as it was, had woken Jimmy. Jimmy sat up in bed and stared at Billy.
Billy’s heart was pounding so hard he thought he could hear his own heartbeat.
Another soft thud filled the silence in the room.
“Santa” they both whispered at the same time.
“Shhhh” said Billy. “If it really is him he can’t know we’re awake.”
“Let’s go look for him downstairs,” whispered Jimmy.
“Wait” Said Billy, but it was too late. Jimmy swiftly and quietly made his way across the room and opened the door to the hallway.
“Come on Billy,” Jimmy waved him over from across the room
The two brothers tiptoed as quietly as they could down the hallway. They passed mom and dad’s room, then the girls’ room, and finally their older brothers’ room. As they crept toward the stairs the light from the fire in the fireplace flickered. Shadows danced across the walls from the flames. The Christmas tree was in the corner of the living room and 7 stockings were hung over the fire place. The grandfather clock at the bottom of the stairs said it was 5 minutes past midnight.
From the top of the stairs Jimmy scanned the room for any unusual activity.
“Get down you big dummy,” Billy whispered sharply, “if he is here you don’t want him to see you.”
“I’m not a dummy, and I don’t think he’s here anymore,” replied Jimmy. “There are already presents under the tree. I’m going down to see if I got my sled.”
“Jimmy! Get back here!” Billy whispered urgently.
But it was too late, Jimmy was already half way down the stairs. Billy hesitated at the top of the stairs. He wanted to go with Jimmy, but he was afraid of getting caught. If dad woke up to throw another log on the fire and found the boys out of bed they would get in big trouble. They wouldn’t be able to listen to any of their radio shows for a whole week and any presents that Santa did bring them would probably get taken away.
“Billy, no one is here, come on.”
Billy followed his little brother downstairs and over to the Christmas tree. They both looked at the presents under the tree.
A lump swelled in Jimmy’s throat, there were seven presents under the tree. That meant that each kid this year only got one present. Jimmy knew that this year his brothers and sisters had gotten on their parents nerves a lot, after all, seven kids can’t be expected to get along with each other all the time. He knew that he had been sent to bed some nights without dessert, but he didn’t think they had been bad enough to only get one present.
One present? Jimmy thought as he looked down at the boxes wrapped in ribbons of green and red. He saw a narrow box with his name it. The box was the length of his ruler. Next to his box was another box exactly the same with a red ribbon on it. The tag on that box said ‘Billy’.
What type of present could fit in that narrow box? It certainly wasn’t a sled. It was in that moment that Jimmy felt a hot tear run down his face and then another. He felt cheated. All he had talked about for the last 6 weeks was getting a sled for Christmas. He didn’t even ask for anything else. All he wanted was a sled and now he would have to wait another whole year before he might get one.
“I hate Christmas,” Jimmy said as he wiped the tears from his face on the sleeve of his pajamas
“Jimmy, Mom and Dad had a rough year this last year, maybe Santa did too.” responded Billy.
“How could Santa have a rough year Billy, Santa makes the toys! We just weren’t good enough this year. We misbehaved too much, we didn’t listen in church, we didn’t put away our toys, we didn’t do our chores on time, and we didn’t help mom and dad enough. Look at the tree, it says it all, we were bad kids this year.” More tears rolled down Jimmy’s face.
Billy’s face got red hot at the words that Jimmy had just spoken. “Speak for yourself!” said Billy “I always help mom when she asks. I do my chores on time, I listen in church, and I help our neighbors when they need it. Maybe the problem isn’t ‘we’ Jimmy, maybe it’s just you.” In that moment, even Billy surprised himself with his anger. As he looked at Jimmy, tears welled up in his eyes, “It’s the truth Jimmy and you know it.”
“You must not have been very good either Billy, you only got one present just like the rest of us.”
“I was perfectly good, I bet Santa just didn’t want you to feel any worse so he punished the rest of us because of your actions.”
“You take that back Billy or I’ll pummel you.”
“I won’t take it back,” Shouted Billy.
Just as Jimmy and Billy lunged at each other hands grabbed their shoulders and separated them.
“Now boys, what seems to be the problem here?” said an unfamiliar voice.
Both boys looked up in shock. There in front of both of them stood Santa Claus. Just like all the stories told, he was indeed a jolly looking old man. He wore a red hat, which covered up some of his long white hair. He had a white beard, and moustache. He wore round, gold rimmed glasses. Behind his glasses his eyes were green and they twinkled like the stars. His cheeks were a little red, probably from the cold. His red coat shimmered with hundreds of tiny snowflakes embroidered on it and it was trimmed with white fur. Across his shoulder he wore a brown leather strap that had jingle bells on it. The jingle bells were silver and looked weathered, like they had thousands of stories to tell. He wore a thick black leather belt around his waist that had a big silver square buckle on it. On the buckle the same snowflake pattern was imprinted on it that was on his red coat. He wore red pants that matched his coat and shiny black leather boots that came to the middle of his shins. The top of his black boots were trimmed with the same white fur from his coat. He was magnificent. He was magical. He was all the stories ever told and yet seemed that no one had truly captured the wonder that he really was.
“Well?” The deep voice interrupted both boys wonderment.
“I…I…. I….” stammered Jimmy.
Billy just looked with his mouth hung open and his eyes were as big as saucers.
“Better shut that trap boy, you don’t want flies to get in there,” Santa said jokingly to Billy.
Billy closed his mouth and just nodded his head.
Jimmy finally broke the silence “I’m s s s s sorry Santa. I didn’t mean to start a fight.”
“Why don’t you two come over here now, sit on Santa’s lap and tell me all about it,” Santa said as he sat down on the couch.
Both Billy and Jimmy slowly made their way, over to Santa. When both were firmly seated on Santa’s lap the jolly elf got serious and stern “Now what on Earth would make two well behaved boys like you start fighting on such a glorious day?”
“Well,” said Jimmy as another lump began to form in his throat, “I was upset because you only gave me one present this year and it wasn’t a sled, and I thought that maybe we were all bad because you usually give us more than one present and then Billy said it was because I was bad kid and not the other kids and so then I…. I…” Jimmy suddenly got quiet.
“I see,” said Santa and then he turned to look at Billy.
Billy finally got the courage to speak, “Santa I’m sorry,” Billy said quietly. “ I was mad too that I only got one present, and I know that Jimmy wasn’t the only reason that we all only got one present this year. We were all bad.”
“HO HO HO HA HA HA HO HO,” laughed Santa. Both Billy and Jimmy were surprised by Santa’s laugh. Jimmy decided that Santa’s belly really did shake like a bowl full of jelly.
“You two weren’t bad at all this year,” continued Santa. “As a matter of fact I gave both of you an incredibly special gift this year. Why don’t you go ahead and open them.”
Both boys looked at each other in disbelief, was Santa really telling them they could open their presents?
“Well, I don’t have all night boys, get on with it,” urged Santa in a friendly manner.
So both boys made their way to the tree and grabbed their gifts. Not wanting to ruin the beautiful ribbon and wrapping the boys slowly opened the presents and opened the boxes at the same time. Inside the box each boy got a hammer that’s head was made of stone and two very, very old nails which appeared to be made out of iron.
Jimmy looked confused, “Santa, you said these presents were special. All I see is a hammer and nails that look like they are a hundred years old.”
“What use could we possibly have for a hammer and nails that are so old?” asked Billy in a disappointed tone.
“HoHoHoHoHo you are right they are old.” Santa said in his jolly old voice. “But it’s not their age that matters, it’s what they held together that makes them so special. I’d like to tell you a story about those nails and how they changed the world.”
Jimmy just looked at Santa as if he had lost his mind. How could nails change the world?
“Did you know that I was a carpenter many, many, many years ago?” Said Santa.
“Yea, I mean you have been making toys for so long I guess that makes sense,” replied Billy.
“I can see how you would think that, but I didn’t always make toys, you see. I actually had no desire to learn how to build toys. When I was younger I wanted to build the most magnificent, most recognizable palace that anyone had ever seen. And fill it with hand carved wonders that would be remembered for ages. That was my dream.
In those days, the way to do that was to become a carpenter, and so that’s what I did. When I was old enough I started working for a man who built stables for animals. I had to start somewhere and at the time the King of the land wasn’t hiring, so I went to work for an old family friend. He didn’t have a son to help him, so I helped him instead. We traveled the countryside building new stables, fixing old ones, and helping with odds and ends that needed fixing. All this time I held onto the dream that one day I would be hired to build at the palace.
Then one day the King called for a census to be taken of the entire Roman World. And the way that a census was taken in those days meant I had to travel to the birth place of my ancestors. This meant I had to leave my friend behind and travel on to a small town outside of the city of Jerusalem.”
“Wait.” Interrupted Jimmy, “You’re telling me you had to travel to Bethlehem?”
“Oh, you’ve heard of it,” Santa said slyly.
“Of course we’ve heard of it, that’s where Jesus was born.” Said Billy.
“Well then you know where I’m from. I’ve been keeping it a secret for years. So let’s not tell anyone, ok? It would ruin my reputation of living and growing up in the North Pole.” Santa said with a wink.
“We won’t tell anyone,” replied Billy as Jimmy nodded in agreement.
Santa continued as if he hadn’t been interrupted, “So I took my hammer, some nails, some of the finest cedar planks I could find, food, my donkey and other belongings with me. Initially I thought that I would leave the cedar behind as it was too much of a hassle to transport, but something told me to bring it along. I had been working with my friend for about 5 years at the time and had learned a great deal. So I naturally felt that I would be able to find some work in Bethlehem while I waited for the census to be over.
When I got to Bethlehem the city was crowded. I got one of the last rooms at an inn, I was quite lucky that I had gotten there in time. I spent the better half of a week looking for work, but no one needed any help. Then early one evening the inn keeper where I was staying knocked on my door. He said that the manger in his stable had been broken. One of the cows got a little rambunctious and fell into it shattering it to pieces. He asked if I would be able to fix it for him. I went down to the stable to look at it, the manger could not be fixed. I would need to build him a new one. I started by trying to find some wood from other carpenters, but no one had any spare pieces to sell. I finally realized that I would have to use the cedar wood I had brought with me on my journey. I grabbed the wood and my tools and went straight to work. Some may think it is easy building a manger, but it’s not. The manger needs to be strong enough to hold food for the animals, and secure enough so it doesn’t leak if it is filled with water. I worked straight through the night. I finally stopped at lunch time the next day to eat and get some rest. All that was left was to put the legs on it and I felt confident I would be able to get it done later that night. So I laid my head down for a short nap.
I was woken up suddenly by the inn keeper. The look on his face made me think something was wrong.
He told me a young man and his pregnant wife had sought a room but he was full and so he sent them to the stable. He needed me to finish the manger right away so his stable would appear in order for the young couple. As I walked to the stable my plan was to offer up my room to the young couple, but when I arrived the wife was ready to have a baby and she was in too much pain to be moved. I worked on the manger a little ways away from the lady so she could have her baby in piece, but she felt better when she talked in-between bouts of pain. She told me about how an Angel had told her that she was going to have the King of kings, and about her husband Joseph. As she talked I knew that the manger I was building would hold something special, that this baby that was about to be born was going to be the biggest blessing the world had ever known. And so as I nailed in my iron nails to hold the legs in place, I knew that those nails must not fail. Not for the sake of the animals, but for the sake of the King that was about to be placed in that manger. I filled the manger with fresh hay as Mary had given birth to a boy, she then wrapped him in swaddling clothes and placed him in the manger. As she did this a host of Angels appeared and sung songs. It was the most beautiful sight I had ever seen and it was the most lovely sound I had ever heard. It was in this moment that I knew that my dream had come true. I had built my palace for a king, and not just any king, the King of kings.”
Santa’s eyes glistened with joy as he continued, “So boys, what you have there in your boxes are my old hammers, and the actual nails that held the manger together. I wanted to give you something that changed the world. Those nails, once held a manger together that held the world’s most precious gift. I couldn’t give those nails to just anyone, I had to wait for the right person to give them to, and I found them. I figured it might inspire both of you to figure out how to keep precious things together as well.”
“Wow Santa”, said Billy. “Thank you so much!”
“Yes, thank you Santa, I will always treasure these. They are way better than a sled.” Said Jimmy. “I do have one question though, when did you decide to make toys?”
“Ho Ho Ho Ho Ha Ha Ha Ho Ho, Jimmy, always the curious one. Well that night was the night I decided to become a toy maker. When the Angels had finished singing I wanted to do something special for little baby Jesus. I didn’t know what at that moment, but I just knew I had to give him the best gift I could. I didn’t have much money, but I did have one piece of cedar left. So I went back to my room and carved out a little toy horse for the baby Jesus. Giving him that toy made me the happiest person on Earth, and so I wanted to continue to make others feel as happy as I felt, so I continued making toys and the rest is history.”
“Well when did you decide to move to the North Pole?” asked Jimmy.
“That’s another story, for another time” replied Santa. “Now you two put your presents down and head back on upstairs to bed before you wake up your sisters.”
The boys got up, put their presents down, and started going up stairs. Just as they got a few steps up, Billy turned around and ran back to Santa. He flung his arms around Santa and whispered “Thank you Santa, I promise you won’t regret giving me those nails.”
Billy then hurried up the stairs to bed followed by Jimmy.
Billy was woken up by the sound of his sisters shrieking. As he opened his eyes his room was flooded with light. It was morning.
Jimmy sat up in his bed, “We need to act surprised when we open our presents.”
“I don’t need to act, I am excited.” Said Billy. “We got the best presents in the whole world last night.”
“You’re right!” Jimmy replied excitedly. “Let’s go see what everyone else got”
The boys hurried down stairs to see a much different sight than what they saw the night before. Instead of just seven presents under the tree, there were several presents for each child under the tree. The seven stockings that were empty only hours ago, were filled to the brim with candy canes, oranges, and Christmas chocolates.
Jimmy couldn’t believe his eyes. “Did we just dream everything last night,” he said to Billy.
“I’m not so sure we didn’t now,” Billy replied.
The boys walked timidly down stairs as their sisters and mom sorted through the gifts. The older boys were already in the kitchen helping dad get coffee made. Jimmy sat down on the couch and Billy plopped down next him.
“Here’s one for you Mary, and one for Mike, and look Billy, here’s a small box for you and one that looks the same for Jimmy.” Their mother said as she sorted all the gifts. “Oh look Jimmy, behind the tree, I think that one is yours.”
Jimmy stood up and slowly walked toward the tree. There behind the tree against the wall was his sled. Big red letters spelling out “FLYER” ran down the middle. The sled runners sparkled in the tree lights. It was perfect, it was exactly what Jimmy wanted. But as Jimmy ran his hand across the letters he wasn’t excited.
“What’s wrong honey?” His mother asked worriedly.
“Nothing” replied Jimmy. Nothing was wrong and of course Jimmy did want his sled, he just knew that he had been given a gift more precious than the joy any sled would bring him.
Jimmy sat back on the couch next to Billy.
“This is the best Christmas ever!” said Billy.
“Yes it is” agreed Jimmy.
As Jimmy looked around the room he couldn’t help but feel immense joy and pride to be a part of such a large family. His sisters were on the floor playing with dolls and throwing wrapping paper at his older brothers. Dad and mom quietly sipped their cups of coffee next to the fire place. In that moment, everything seemed perfect.
“Merry Christmas everyone,” said Jimmy “and may all our Christmases be just as special as this one. Here’s to us, I LOVE us!”
Author: Christy Behnke