Last Christmas I spent with a schoolmate who lives in the country. I had gone to her home in the early Autumn to board because I had much writing to do and needed quiet. At the same time I needed the sweet, pure country air. When we first began talking of Christmas, fully six or eight weeks before that date, Ruth, my friend, began the old-time plaint: “I know I shall get a lot of pretty things from my city friends and relatives, and what on earth can I get in this old ark that is fit to send them?”
“This old ark,” was the village general store, where we were when we brought up the subject of Christmas giving. “Ruth Preston,” I answered her, “with all the opportunities you have for making the most delightful, unusual and really worthwhile gifts, you should worry about Storekeeper Wiggin's limited stock of cheese and chewing tobacco.”
“What do you mean?” gasped Ruth.
“Well, you never lived in the city, cooped up in an apartment, or in a house in a big town where the nearest woods and nearest garden were miles and miles away? Did you now?” She admitted that she never had.
“Imagine that you did live in such a place. What would you say if you were to receive a beautiful little baby fir tree eighteen inches high, a luscious deep green, growing in a pretty little wooden tub painted deep red? Suppose it came to you carefully wrapped in wet burlap so that the express people could see what it was the keep it right side up?
“It would be pretty,” admitted Ruth.
“And suppose you lived in a big elevator apartment with a tiny kitchenette and a new maid every week or so and all the goodies you had you made yourself or got at a cafe or dug out of cans with a can opener. How would you like to get a great big fat mince pie, packed in a box so carefully that it couldn't crush or break?”
I had set her to thinking. Soon after that we brought up the subject once more. I sent back to the city for two dollars' worth of narrow, red ribbon, holly ribbon, Christmas labels, tags and stickers.
“What are you going to send him?” I asked Ruth one day as she mentioned her very wealthy brother who had lived in a distant city for twenty years.
“Oh dear, Tom has so much money that anything I could afford would look cheap!” she complained. “Neckties are silly and I don't know the latest styles. I'd love to surprise him once---”
“Make fifty of those old-fashioned big sugar cookies, such as your mother used to make for you and Tom when you were youngsters. I know how they taste—want one right now! Wrap each one in white tissue, stick a tiny fancy label on, to fasten the tissue together, pack them firmly in a box and send them along to him.” Watch his mouth water!
Ruth did it and the letter she got from her brother brought the quick tears to her eyes.