Editor’s note: The following is an original short story by the author. Joe and Sue were sitting on the front step looking like their ice cream cones just got squashed. “Listen to that,” Joe said. “Did you hear them? They’re singing about me. My mom told me just this morning that I’m gettin’ nuttin’ for Christmas.

Now they made a song about it, and my whole class is singing it. So what if I did break my bat on Johnny’s head, and I made Tommy eat a bug. It wasn’t my fault the ink spilled on Mamma’s rug. It’s just not fair!”

“They made a song about me too,” Sue frowned. “My teeth are never coming back. They are gone forever. You don’t know how bad it is not to have your two front teeth. You can’t even eat soup. It all runs out! Mommy says chew your food properly, and I can’t even bite it, let alone chew.

The other day the cat bit me, and I couldn’t even bite him back. What’s worse, I can’t even call my dog.” Sue puckered her lips and tried to whistle. “See, it just don’t work. I wrote Santa a letter and asked if he could bring me some teeth, but I think he can’t make teeth. I’ll probably have to go to the dentist.”

“That’s awful,” Joe retorted. “I never want to go to the dentist. Martin says they have a needle that is this long, and they stick it right in your sore tooth.”


“Do you think Santa can make teeth?”

“I don’t know ... I can’t even think about Santa. It makes me sick inside.”

“I dream about Santa. He can do anything. Maybe he can make some teeth. I just got to have teeth.”

“I just have nightmares. I keep seeing Santa in his workshop. Santa is big and jolly and says ‘Ho Ho Ho!’ Then he takes out his list that goes forever; ‘Joe Tanner is at the top of the list of the bad bad ones.’”

“You haven’t been that bad.”

“Yes, I have. Santa said so. You heard that song, ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town.’ You just listen to the words. He’s making a list and checking it twice! I’m gettin’ nuttin’ for Christmas! I’m on the bad list!”

Suddenly, a bright light spread over the snow in the street.

Sue jumped to her feet. “Look at that,” she yelled grabbing Joe’s arm.

“Wow! What is that?

They both watched wide-eyed as the most beautiful angel floated toward them.

“Hello Sue Markham and Joe Tanner,” she said as she settled her wings and smiled at them.

Sue was the first to speak. “You know us?”

“Who are you,” Joe stammered.

“I’m the Christmas Tree Angel, I watch over everyone at Christmas.”

“You’re like a genie,” Sue asked shyly.

“You grant wishes,” Joe asked eagerly.

“I’m not like a genie, but I do help people have a Merry Christmas. I sit at the top of the tree and spread Christmas cheer.”

“Tree Angel, are you friends with Santa?”

“Best of friends.”

“Would you tell him to bring me something? I haven’t been too bad and I only want a few things – a Tonka truck with a remote control, a skateboard, a basketball, and a baseball glove and bat and ball, and cleats, and an iPad.”

“My my! That’s quite a list!”

“All I want is my two front teeth,” Sue said, looking at her toes.

“I can’t get you all those things, but I can get you something better,” the Tree Angel twinkled.

“You can?” Sue looked up hopefully.

“Better than a Tonka truck with a remote control, a skateboard, a basketball, and a baseball glove and bat and ball, and cleats, and an iPad?”

“Infinitely better!”

“What is it?” Joe and Sue chimed in chorus.

“It’s a secret,” the Tree Angel whispered.

“A secret?” Sue’s eyes brightened.

“And you’re not going to tell us?” Joe frowned.

“We never tell secrets. But I will give you some clues and you can discover the secret on your own.”

“You can’t tell us the secret?” Joe prodded.

“We’re sworn to secrecy,” the angel smiled.

“We have to be like detectives and find out?”

“That’s right. You are looking for the true meaning of Christmas. When you find it, your gift will be waiting for you. Goodbye now,” the angel started to fade.

“Wait! Where do we go?” cried Sue.

“Everywhere, but mostly in your heart, and it will come to you.” Her voice trailed away in the fading light.

“Look in my heart?”

“Martha says I don’t have a heart. How can I look there?” Joe kicked a puff of snow and sent it sailing. “Find the true meaning of Christmas and your gift will be there. That’s a lot of help! I knew it wouldn’t be like Angels in the Outfield.”

“Isn’t this exciting?” Sue clapped her mittens together. “We just saw an angel.”

“What good is that?”

“Angels can’t tell lies. She has to give us something infinitely better than what we wanted. She promised!”

“What does ‘infinitely’ mean?”

“Infinitely means lots and lots better! I mean lots and lots and lots and lots and lots better.”

“Something lots better than a Tonka truck with a remote control, a skateboard, a basketball, and a baseball glove and bat and ball, and cleats, and an iPad? That must be some gift!”

“Something that good has to have some teeth somewhere. Let’s get busy!”

Joe sat down heavily on the porch. “But she said you have to look in your heart. I don’t have one.”

“Yes, you do. Everyone has a heart! Look, there are some kids. Let’s ask them.”

The two children raced up the street. “Can you tell us the true meaning of Christmas?”

Every child’s answer was the same. “It’s presents under the tree!”

Then one little girl said, “There is magic in the eye of a brand-new doll.”

Sue screamed with delight, “That is a clue!”

“No, it’s not,” Joe grumbled.

“Yes it is! I feel it in my heart. Let’s go to the toy shop.”

They went to the toy shop and looked around. There were hundreds of dolls sitting on the shelf, but their eyes just stared forward. There was no magic. Not a single bit.

As they walked out the door, they saw Rudolf and a sleigh on the street corner.

“There is Rudolf; let’s ask him. He’s bound to know something about Christmas. He’s been around since my dad was little, and that was a long time ago. Hey Rudolf! Can you talk to us?”

Sue pulled back on Joe’s hand, “Don’t ask him like that! He’s famous.”

“What do you want me to say?”

“Rudolf, kind sir, could you help us? We’re looking for the true meaning of Christmas.”

“Well, my dears ...” Rudolf began.

“We’re people, not deers,” Joe interrupted.

“He knows that,” Sue hissed.

“Well, my little people,” smiled Rudolf. “There is a magic in Christmas. Something a little lamb told me many years ago when I was just a little fawn. Everyone used to laugh at me, you know.”

“They laugh at me too,” said Joe, staring at the ground.

“My teeth are gone, and everyone laughs at me,” chimed in Sue.

“Yes, it’s very sad when someone laughs at you, but I learned a secret.”

“You’re not going to tell us, right? Just like the Tree Angel. We have to figure it out.”

“I will give you a clue by telling you about a little boy who everyone laughs at. He lives in Shanty Town. He’s getting nothing for Christmas.”

“Just like me,” said Joe sadly.

“This little boy has been good all year, and his mom had to paint his toys last year. This year, they are too worn out to paint.”

“What does that have to do with the meaning of Christmas?”

Rudolf looked deep into Joe’s eyes. “Listen to your heart, and you will know.”

“Come on, let’s go to Shanty Town,” Sue tugged on Joe’s arm.

The children hurried along the street until they came to a shack that tottered in the snow. They looked in the window. There was a mother and a little boy. She was rocking in her chair singing. They listened. ‘C is for the Christ Child born upon this day ...’ The music was soft and sweet.

Joe noticed the empty corner without a tree. He noticed the broken cupboards and the bed in the corner with the ragged quilts. “And that’s why there’s a Christmas Day ...” The mother’s soft voice trailed away. She hugged her son. “Christmas will be better next year, I promise,” she said softly.

“Come on,” Sue whispered.

Joe followed, but he was very quiet.

It was Christmas Eve when Sue and Joe met Santa. Joe tried to hide, but Santa called them by name.

“Sue, you have been good this year and you have found the true meaning of Christmas. So I will grant you your Christmas wish.”

“But I want teeth.”

Santa pulled a mirror from his huge pocket. “Look in your mouth. See those two little white dots. They are teeth. It will take a few days, and they will be in. Sometimes the best gifts take a little time.”

“Oh, thank you Santa! I thought my teeth were gone forever!”

“Now for you, Joe ...”

“Who, me?”

“Yes, you, Joe Tanner. You are on my list.”

“I know I’ve been bad. It really was my fault the ink spilled on the rug, and it wasn’t funny for Tommy to eat a bug and ... I know I’m getting nothing for Christmas.”

“Yes, Joe, those things you did were bad, but a friend told me not to forget his good friend Joe.”

“Who said that?”

“A baby in a manger. You see, Joe, he gave his best gifts to everyone, both the good and the bad. Do you know what he said long ago? ‘It is better to give than to receive.’ Here are your gifts, Joe.” Santa took down his big pack.

“Is it a Tonka truck with a remote control, a skateboard, a basketball, and a baseball glove and bat and ball, and cleats, and an iPad?”

“Yes, Joe, everything is there.”

Joe rushed to the pack, then stopped. “Santa, do you think the baby in the manger would be sad if I didn’t want these gifts?”

“They are what you asked for.”

“I have lots of toys. Can I give these toys to a boy in Shanty Town? He’s never had a real Christmas, and he’s been good all year. Can you take these gifts to him?”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes! I am sure!” A big smile spread over Joe’s face. “I’ve found the true meaning of Christmas, and it is better! It’s infinitely better than all those other gifts! I know it right here in my heart!” PD