Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Coin Jar Christmas

Jimmy Carter’s pre-election autobiography.
Why not...
When Jimmy Carter became president in 1976, many events and hardships followed.  The list is long, infuriating, and filled with needs that stuck us hard in many ways, mostly our pockets.

In those years of his presidency, inflation rose, interest rates soared, and our family needs increased.  Our baby Mary was born on New Year’s Eve in 1980, just when we felt our bank account echoed like an empty canyon. 

John worked at a property management company, collecting rents, evicting, arranging for repairs.  With the rough economy, apartments stood empty and renters did not pay.

Our income shrank. Details aren't important, but December was.  We could stretch our money only so far, and Christmas was beyond our stretching reach. Facing each other the day after Thanksgiving as we decorated our Kmart artificial tree, the question hung in the air silently.  What are we going to do?

Erin was five, Johnny was three, and Mary was one—the older two danced around the lighted tree, laughing as we were almost crying.  What are we going to do?

A coin jar was on a dresser, where we had emptied pockets of coins from pockets over the past two years.  Maybe?  In a quiet house, John dumped coins onto the kitchen table and we began counting.  Stacks of quarters were few, followed by more stacks of dimes and nickels, but the pennies were a sea across the table.
heplful jars of coins
Source
Fifty two dollars and some cents.  That was all we had. Every penny.  We leaned back in our chairs and considered what we could  do.  



An unspoken understanding affirmed that would be packages under that cheap tree, and our children would have piles of wrapping paper around them.  So it began...the search for our children's Christmas.

Why was this important to us? 


Looking back, I believe that this monumental effort was to show ourselves that we could provide a spectacular Christmas, even though we struggled in so many areas of our lives.  We could give our children this, something important to us.

How? How?  The details are so many.  Details that required dropping ever semblance of pride. 

John searched empty apartments as they were being cleaned.  Renters who disappear in the dead of the night left behind surprising items, some damaged and some nearly new.  From his searches, John brought home a “Wonder Horse”.  We would paint it and make it new.
Vintage Wonder Horse Spring Rocking Horse Christmas Gift Decoration WILL SHIP
ebay

A store nearby sold damaged items at lower prices.  But those prices moved beyond our list.  A bin in the back corner was a doll in a bashed box, a doll with blond hair, like Erin’s hair.  We could buy that.  We thanked God for the finds and for His way of guiding us to the right places.  Pic 'N Save and Goodwill revealed treasures.

The list grew as the coin stacks shrank.  I crocheted slippers, quilted pot holders, and found doll patterns in a woman's magazine.  John brought home fixable and decent items to fix, renovate, and gift to his own family members.  But then...

We were down to the last four dollars, when a letter arrived from my grandmother arrived.  "Honey, I just knew you could use this.  Merry Christmas, sweetheart.  I love you..."  Ten dollars!  I cried.

Cheap, but lovely toys were wrapped for the tree.  We put the tree on a side table, and then covered it with a white sheet.  The presents around the tree cascaded as a waterfall, flowing out on the floor.  Gasps from Erin and Johnny as they ran out to the tree told us that we had succeeded.  With Mary happily shaking a dolly made from my sewing stash, each child took their turns opening gifts.

Each morning thereafter we would wake up to the sound of Johnny riding the Wonder Horse.  How, oh how I wished that we had oiled those springs.

God bless Coin Jars everywhere.







23 comments:

  1. And I'm sure your children never knew the difference! There is always a way. God always provides.

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    1. God is faithful to provide, that is certain.

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  2. You've just given me a wonderful idea for next Christmas......maybe.....just maybe....we could donate our usual Christmas budget to the food bank or humane society and buy our gifts from our coin jars. I think I'll run it past the hubs and see what he has to say.

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    1. It is an excellent idea. Who knows how much has accumulated in those silent coin jars.

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  3. This is a beautiful story of God's provision, and also a reminder to me to be sure that outgrown toys get donated in the late fall, so a needy child can have a nice Christmas.

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    1. What is boring now can become new to a precious child!

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  4. We find a way indeed, just have to persevere and it helps to have a coin jar haha . Sure renters left plenty of interesting and not so interesting things behind.

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  5. And I bet they were just as happy as any other kid

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    1. At that age, everything was good. The one year old was happy with a wad of tissue paper.

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  6. A wonderful story. My Christmases always were "home made," for the reasons you give. Repurpose, refurbish, make by hand--it's a long tradition.

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    1. We were "green" and we didn't know it!

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  7. Christmas as it should be. Love and caring trump money every time. A misty-eyed thank you.

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    1. When I recall that time, misty eyes appear.

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  8. I can relate to those kinds of lean times. This is also timely for me as over the past year my sisters and I have first cashed in coins saved up by our late step-father whose stash amounted to an amazing $235 + and then later my mothers hoard which came to a bit over $176. I've never been able to collect that much change as I tend to spend as I get it.

    Lee
    Tossing It Out

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    1. Itr appears that the coin jar has been needed/used by most people. It sure has been/was then a "life-saver".

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  9. How sweet of you as parents, and how sweet of your grandmother as a grandparent too. :) You were blessing your children, and your gram was blessing all of you. :)

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    1. Grandma had a second sense I think, as she always. seemed to know "things". We were very close and I miss her

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  10. Artificial tree? Why not? Cheap and you only have to pay for it once, it will last for years and years.
    Coin jars have been my saviour many times over the years. I still empty my pockets and purse of loose change and put the coins into a tin that needs a can opener to get them out.
    My other saviour is my brother, like your grandmother, he has unexpectedly helped so many times.
    I fear that with our new "leader" many in Australia now will face a dreary no-hope Christmas.

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    1. Artificial trees is the best for most people these days. Real trees are expensive here.
      My condolences to all in Australia, experiencing such an act of terror.

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  11. I know for my parents it was always important to them to have gifts under the tree for us, no matter what they had to do to make it happen. For the same reason as you mentioned. As far as coin jars, they can come in handy. Our coin jar insured we had money to pay for food when we were evacuated during a wildfire. We had so many expenses during that evacuation, and the surprising amount of cash we discovered in the coin jar I grabbed on a whim as we fled really helped.

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    1. Bless your parents!
      The Colorado fire was horrible, I remember. Your spontaneous choice to grab the coin jar was inspired.

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  12. This is such an inspirational story! I'm sure your kids really loved that horse, as well as the other toys that you made look like new. Thank goodness for your grandma, the coin jar, and the fact that you and your husband got through such a difficult time. I love that you still wanted the gifts to look pretty under the tree when the kids were so young. It shows what generous and loving parents you were (and still are) to put your children first.

    Julie

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Go ahead...it won' t hurt...I'd love to hear what you think!