When I was six years old, my parents took my sister and me shopping with them. She was 11. We were walking down the street in Little Rock, Arkansas and stopped outside of Zale's Jewelry store. My dad had told my mom he wanted to buy her a watch for Christmas and she was looking at the ones in the window. I was looking too and my eyes and heart stopped when I saw a gold necklace with a very thin chain and a puffy gold heart on the end. I wanted that necklace more than I had ever wanted anything. I began pulling on my mom's coat, begging her to look at the necklace. She and Daddy both knew I didn't believe in Santa any longer. My friend Harvey told me all about it, that it was just your mother and daddy. Mom and Dad were real mad at him for a while because they said it took the fun out of things, but Sybil told them she already knew, so they didn't care as much. Mom finally walked over and looked in the window. "Mary Sue, you need to forget about that. We just don't have that kind of money." Tears began to leak from my eyes and I sat down in a huff and cried and cried. My sister Sybil said to just pick out something else I wanted. She just didn't understand. I wanted that necklace.
That night, I prayed as I had never prayed. I prayed to God, who, to me, was a very tall white man with a long white beard who just waited to find out what little children wanted so that he could make them happy. I prayed to baby Jesus, who I thought of as the baby who loved me more than anything and would do anything to make me happy. I knelt by my bed for more than ten minutes, praying for the necklace. My sister felt sorry for me as she had a more realistic view of the world, and tried to get me interested in other things to ask for. I wanted nothing but that necklace.
My mom came in to kiss us goodnight and asked me if I'd decided what I wanted for Christmas. I told her the necklace I saw at Zale's. "Mary Sue, I told you we can't afford that kind of thing. Wouldn't you like a pretty doll and some new plastic dishes for your other dolls?"
"No, I want that necklace."
"I don't want you to be disappointed, so please decide on something else."
"I will get it. Brother Fincher said in church, 'Ask and you will receive.' "
"It doesn't mean exactly that, Mary Sue."
I began to cry and whimpered, "Well, he shouldn't say it, then."
Mom kissed me goodnight and told me to think about something besides the necklace. I couldn't. I dreamed of the necklace that night. When I put it on in my dream, my hair wasn't frizzy anymore, my legs weren't so skinny and I had big teeth like everyone else, not little funny-looking ones.
The next day was Christmas Eve. Mom and Daddy got dressed to go shopping. They shopped for us at Kress. Before they left, they asked us what we wanted for Christmas. Sybil asked for corners for the pictures in her scrapbook, glue, a magnifying glass and several over things. I said, "I want that necklace."
Mom said, "I told you we can't afford anything like that, Mary Sue. Now pick out something else you want."
"You told me not to lie. I don't want anything but that necklace."
"Young lady, you are going to end up with nothing if you don't stop this. Santa Claus doesn't like whiny little girls" This is Daddy. He calls this "laying down the law." They both know I don't believe in Santa, so it seems silly to me, but I don't dare talk back. They leave with a rush of icy wind as they open the front door.
Sybil says, "I don't think you're going to get that necklace. You better hush about it or they're going to get mad."
Where Is It?
Mom and Dad locked themselves up in their room and wrapped presents for a long time. They put them all under the tree just as it started to get dark around 5:30. We all drank hot chocolate and listened to Christmas music. I thought about what I would wear tomorrow with my necklace. There was never a doubt in my mind that I would get it.
That night after Mom and Dad went to bed, Sybil and I sneaked into the living room and rattled, pinched, even tore small places to look through until we had figured out what everything was. The one thing that was certain was that there was no necklace. We went to bed and I prayed some more and a small bit of doubt began to seep into my thoughts. It didn't feel good.
Christmas morning, Sybil and I woke up at 6:00. We ran to the tree and began to tear open our presents. My heart sank as I opened the last one. I knew better than to let my disappointment show as I knew Daddy had had enough of me being whiny and sad. I played with my new doll and dishes, then said I was sleepy and went to our room. I lay on my little bed and tears rolled out of my eyes and down the sides of my face. I felt betrayed, not by Mom and Dad because I knew they didn't have much money, but by God of the long white hair and baby Jesus in his crib. They knew how badly I wanted that necklace and kept it from me. I would never pray to them again.
We had a roast for a midafternoon meal. It was really good and lifted my mood a bit, not enough to forgive, but enough to feel better. Sybil and I played cards and she let me me win once or twice. We had some fudge Grandmother had sent and went to bed around 9:00. We could hear our parents sitting in the living room talking about the poor people and how lucky we are to have a nice warm home and a car that runs, etc.
As I began to get sleepy, I decided to forgo my prayers since no one came through for me. I fluffed my pillow and felt something underneath. I picked it up and went into the hall where I could see from the bathroom light we left on at night. It was a tiny box wrapped in red foil and tied with gold ribbon. My hands shook as I opened it. There was a black velvet jewelry box. When I opened it, there was my necklace, exactly the one I wanted. To try to explain my happiness at the moment is just impossible. I climbed up on the stool I used to be able to see in the mirror in the bathroom and hooked it in front, then turned it around. There it was, that beautiful puffy gold heart glimmering in the mirror. My hair didn't look as goofy as usual, my teeth looked more normal, everything looked better. I wanted to run in and thank Mom and Dad but they had already gone to bed and I didn't want to wake them.
I went to bed too excited to sleep. Sybil was already sleeping and I couldn't tell her. I finally dozed off. The next morning, I jumped up and ran to tell my parents they were the best in the world. They were very quiet and when I finished, my mom said, "We didn't buy that necklace. Where did you get that?"
"It was under my pillow last night. I know you bought it, Mom. Thank you!" I was so excited I didn't notice the glances exchanged or the obvious bewilderment of both of them.
"Mary Sue, we didn't buy that. Did you tell anyone else that you wanted it?"
"Just Grandmother. Do you think she bought it for me?"
"She will be here later today and we'll ask her."
It was a regular day, the day after Christmas. Daddy went back to work at the lumber yard. We went to school. When I got off the bus that afternoon, I ran in to see Grandmother. "Did you buy me the necklace?" I spilled the whole story, including how I prayed and nothing happened. I had decided that baby Jesus and white-haired God has sent me the necklace by now. I never thought Grandmother did it. I asked her if that that was what happened. I saw her glance at my parents and she said, "Yes, it was just Grandmother who bought it. I knew how much you wanted it." The relief on my parents' faces was a tangible thing in that room. I hugged my grandmother and Sybil and I went outside to play.
Grandmother walked out in a bit, leaning on her cane. She called us over. "Remember how I said I try to be fair and equal with what I give you?"
"Yes," we both answered.
"I didn't buy that necklace. I wouldn't do that without doing something similar for Sybil. It's best you let your folks believe I did, though. There are some adults who don't believe in magic. Just please, keep quiet about it. They'll think you're not right in the head like people do with me sometimes.
I had something like that happen to me one time and I never forgot. I was living in Chicago and I had no money. When I say no money, I mean none. It was three days until my teacher's retirement check was to come and I didn't know how I was going to eat. I prayed so hard the night my money ran out. I reminded God of every good thing I ever did and asked him to forgive every bad thing because I was truly sorry. I got nothing under my pillow like you did, but as I was walking down the street the next day, I saw a small black coin purse at my feet. I picked it up and the only thing inside was a $5 bill and two $1 bills. Seven dollars was a lot of money in the 1950s. It was a miracle just as surely as that necklace. The problem is we try too hard to explain them away."
I never forgot my miracle either. No one ever came forward to admit to buying the necklace. I thought one time maybe Sybil saved her money and bought it, but it would take her years to save that much. I wanted to give it to my daughter, but it disappeared as quickly as it came. I opened the jewelry box I always kept it in and it wasn't there. Nothing else was gone. Maybe it had served its purpose. I have never prayed like that since and won't until I need a true miracle.