It was the middle of December, and in this town that meant one thing…spending money. New York has always been known as one of the country's biggest shopping stations, and with the money the Upper East Side held prices were high. I however didn't think much of money I had enough to go around. December 23, 2010 is the day I'll never forget. This was the day I was taught a lesson that would change my life.
It all started that morning. I woke up to the familiar color of white outside. It was twenty degrees and the snow was still falling. I walked into my luxurious closet with clothes galore. I honestly didn't even need that many clothes, they were just nice to have and I liked to shop. After getting ready I yelled at the help to bring me my coffee and breakfast. The toast was too dry and they put apricot butter on it instead of grape. That ruined my whole day.
"Bella, I said I wanted grape! Apricot is not acceptable you know that!"
"Yes, Ms. Van Helena, I'm so sorry my mistake I'll go fix it right now."
"Don't even bother, you are fired!"
"Please, Ms. Van Helena it's almost Christmas I can't afford to lose this job I have three kids at home who won't even get a Christmas meal."
"Well you should have thought of that before, get out!" She finally got out of my sight. Now I figured I could enjoy what was left of my breakfast. I was enjoying my penthouse view; I could see the Christmas tree that lit up most of New York at night. This Christmas was going to be special. It was the first Christmas I'd have family with me; my daughter and granddaughter were coming to visit. I would usually just send them money and they could buy what they needed, but since they were coming here I wanted them to have something to unwrap. My daughter was easy to shop for, but I have never shopped for a little girl before. Mia was her name, she was only four years old and I've only seen her once. They lived back west apparently this life wasn't for my daughter. I couldn't imagine what was wrong with it; I loved the life I lived. My only problem was now I have to go out into the city and buy little girl toys and dresses. I had no idea how to shop for this litter girl, and I did not feel like braving the New York cold and the New York shoppers. Maybe this wouldn't be so bad if I went and picked something out for myself first.
I was out in New York for two hours and I was about to give up and just give little Mia cash. I did decide that instead of sending the help out to get the food I would stop by the grocery store and pick up a few things. I fought the crowds for an hour and finally made it to the checkout stand. There was a little boy in front of me trying to buy a big turkey. He looked like he came out of a box on the street. His hair was a mess there was dirt on his face, his clothes were mere rags. He was trying to pay the cashier in change.
"I'm sorry little boy, but you do not have enough."
"But it's all I have; I worked all week to get this much!"
"I'm sorry but you can't have it."
"Please mister I want to give my family a good Christmas, we haven't eaten anything like this." The cashier had a plain look on his face, he didn't even care that this little boy just wanted to make his family happy. The child started to cry but the cashier dismissed him and he finally walked out the door. Thank goodness! I just wanted to pay and go home. As I was about to pay I saw the young child who couldn't be older than ten step outside into the cold. He had to be freezing; he didn't even have a coat on. I felt something at this time, something that I've never felt before…I felt sorry. The poor kid didn't have much the least I could do was buy him the turkey he wanted for his family. That way my mind won't feel guilty and I can go home with a clean and clear conscience. I grabbed the turkey and my groceries and took them to the car waiting outside for me. My driver helped me put them in the back. I looked for the lonely boy but could not find him.
"Harold, did you see a little homeless boy walk by?"
"Why yes, he went west into that neighborhood over there."
"Then that's where we shall go." Harold drove down the street he saw the kid go down. I felt disgusted to even be on this road. The houses were torn apart, and the roofs were caving in. When I was about to give up hope I saw the little boy walk into the worst house on the street. I waited a few minutes and grabbed his turkey. I knocked carefully on the door because I was afraid I would beat the door down.
"Hello?" a little, weak voice said.
"Hi, I saw you at the store and I wanted you to have this." I pushed the turkey toward him. The second he looked into the bag his face lit up with joy.
"Oh thank you so much! Would you like to come in?"
"No I can't right now but thanks." I was about to turn away when I heard another small voice.
"Is this all for us Jimmy?"
"Yes, this kind lady brought it to us." I turned around to see a young girl about the age of five looking up at me like I was an angel. She grabbed onto my leg and began to cry.
"You are quite welcome; well you guys have a Merry Christmas."
"What's your name?"
"I'm Christine Van Helena."
"Would you like to stay?" What kind of question was that? Of course I didn't want to stay!
"Where are your parents? You two seem awfully young to be home alone."
"They both are working."
"Where do they work?" I was suddenly intrigued by this family.
"My mom's a nanny and my father a bus boy." Well that explains a lot. I couldn't just leave these kids home alone. Then I felt it again, sorrow. I really did want these kids to have a decent Christmas I wasn't a monster. I did still need to find Mia a present, maybe they could help me.
"How would you two like to come shopping with me?"
"Oh no we couldn't do that."
"Oh yes you could, go get your coats and we'll leave." They stood there confused until little Jimmy spoke up.
"Ma'am we don't own any coats."
"Well, we will just have to fix that now won't we?" I led the kids to the car and Harold raised his eyebrows at me. "Don't ask; just take us to the nearest toy store please."
We found Mia a few gifts; Amy was very helpful with choosing her gifts. I even let Amy and Jimmy pick out a few things. I got them each a new outfit too. I went to drop the kids off at their "home" after two hours. Their parents were home.
"Hi you must be Jimmy and Amy's parents, I hope you don't mind but I ran into Jimmy at the store and needed their help in town. I bought them a few things I really hope that was okay." They took a look in the bags and smiled.
"No it's fine but thank you. I'm sorry I haven't introduced myself, I'm John and this is my wife Candice."
"How do you do?"
"Oh Ms. Van Helen won't you please stay for some hot chocolate."
"Well I guess one cup won't hurt." I stayed and talked to the family for a while. They really were nice people, and I didn't even mind that I was sitting in their home. Once the sun started to set I said my goodbyes and wished them a Merry Christmas.
Over the next day I couldn't stop thinking about Jimmy and Amy. They were so grateful for so little. I'll admit I live in luxury, but just because I have money it doesn't give me the right to be snotty and arrogant. There was only six more hours until Christmas day and I knew what I had to do. I had to give that family the best Christmas ever. I assembled Harold and called Bella to come back. I needed all the help I could get so I set my daughter and granddaughter up on the scheme too. Bella and the caterers went straight to cooking a feast, Harold and Mia went to find a Christmas tree and my daughter Rosa and I went shopping.
I couldn't stop filling up my basket with different toys and presents for the kids and their parents.
"Mother, why are you doing this?"
"Why not? I've been living in the dark for so long, these people are nice people they deserve this. I have too much money for only myself I want to help out." Once everything was done and ready to go, we all arrived at the small, broken down house. I knocked once again and Jimmy opened the door.
"Hello Ms. Van Helena! What are you doing here?"
"Well I have a few surprises for you, may we come in?"
"Of course, mom, dad, Amy, we have visitors."
"I'm so sorry to drop in like this!"
"It's no problem at all, is something wrong?"
"No, but I figured you could use some Christmas company." I opened the door further to reveal Harold with a huge Christmas tree, Mia and Rosa with a sack full of presents, and my caterers with the feast.
"We don't know what to say."
"Don't say anything, let's just open presents while we wait for dinner. Jimmy, Amy, this is my granddaughter Mia. I think we should let you three open all your presents!" The kids were having a wonderful time exploring all their new gifts. "Oh and John I almost forgot yours."
"What? You didn't need to get me anything."
"But I wanted too, your son mentioned you love to cook so I got you a job at La Chapola's.'
"The restaurant in the middle of the city?"
"Yes, you are the new Chef assistant and you'll be starting culinary arts school after the break."
"You do not know how much this means to me, to my family." John and Candice had tears in their eyes as they hugged me. It was nice to do something for other people; I had wasted so much of my life being selfish. This was the true meaning of Christmas; this winter miracle was just as much for me as it was them. I learned a lesson that day and since then I haven't been my same selfish self.
*Ten years later*
I was sitting in the second row of the church, Jimmy was standing at the alter looking handsome. We all stood up to glance at the bride. I watched them say I do. I watched Jimmy grow up, I watched and remembered. I remembered the day we met ten years ago. Jimmy and his family will always be my family. The family that changed my life.