Paper Christmas
by Karlene Jacobsen

Mary and I laughed as we talked and cut out a paper Christmas tree, decorated it with paper garland and lights, then surrounded the bottom of the tree with paper presents.
This was going to be the best Christmas ever; I thought as I pondered what I would give to my friends.

It was our first year at college and none of us had much money; none actually that we could spend on gifts for anyone. We agreed that we would spend no money; it would be our hearts we exchanged.

I looked at the clock. It's almost six o'clock; I must hurry, before the others get here! Lucy and Mikki (Michelle) were going to join us for pizza in our room, and celebrate with us before we began heading home for the holidays.

With the decorations complete, I was able to slip out of our room and down to the common room so I could finish putting together the gifts I had planned for my friends.
I found a quiet corner to sit, pulled out three 3x5 index cards and began to draw pictures on the unlined side with colored pencils. Each card would be different; something to represent my relationship with each girl. Then on the lined side, I wrote something for each of them.

Mary, my roommate and friend:
One never knows what they're getting into when placed with a stranger the first year away at school. I was blessed with you. I am so glad we've come to know each other these past three months. Your energy invigorates me. I know how you and Chad want to marry after you're finished with college. I also know you'll be getting started as a graphics designer then as well.

I would love it if I could give you the most extravagant of gifts like a house, a boat, or some little cottage up in the country. However, I know that's impossible. What I will give to you, though, is my support and friendship.

It's been a real pleasure growing as friends over these past few months. I love your passion for writing and am so glad to see you working for that Spanish newspaper. You are gifted in so many ways.

If I could, I would use every resource I can to find a cure for diabetes so you don't have to take insulin any longer. I would also buy one of the largest newspapers and give it to you so there would be no worry of censorship. You would be able to voice your Christian convictions freely.

However, since that is not possible, I give to you my shoulder to cry on whenever the trials of this life try to discourage you.

You and I are so much alike it's almost surreal. Your heart of compassion supersedes any other I've ever known and your voice is like that of an angel when you sing, well, like Sandi Patti anyway.

If I could, you would find a music hall with your name on it, and the deed signed over to you free and clear. All of the greatest musicians you've ever admired would grace the stage and visit your home where you can glean from them their expertise. But since I can't, I hope to be one of those who you choose to have close at your side and when you need a shelter to hide from the stresses of life; you'll find it in Me.

As I finished the cards I sealed them in envelopes made with construction paper- each in their favorite colors, of course-purple for Mikki, red for Lucy, and green and gold for Mary. With glitter pens, I scrawled each of their names in the fanciest calligraphy I knew.

Looking again at my watch I saw that it was time. Lucy and Mikki should be getting to our room right about now. I stopped by the common room phone, called to order the pizza (it'll be delivered in about thirty minutes), and walked back up to the third floor where the party was waiting.

Once the pizza was eaten, and we caught up with each other's week, we took turns reading our cards aloud. Tears began to flow, and hugs were passed around. Before long, our cards were soggy and ink ran, leaving them difficult to re-read. It did not matter though, those words have been imprinted on our hearts.

Life, to me, is a dress rehearsal. I love how words spin together, with limitless possibilities.

I've been married for 18 years with four children along for the ride.  It's a joy to weave them into the story of my life, as we camp, picnic, read, ride bikes, play games, and learn together.

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