Although my mother would not say she believed in ghosts, she would not deny their existence either, as she put it, "Just in case one is listening and decides to give proof." How ever she was not without her own experiences as the following account shows.
It was Christmas Eve, 1946 in the projects of Chicago. The twins were about 8 years old, and my oldest brother was only 2. My mother was saddened that there would be no Santa for them that year. Although the 'Great Depression' has ended, America is still struggling. My dad brought home $15 a week, almost $9 would be set aside to pay the rent on their small apartment. That didn't leave much left to live on for a family of five, and every penny was ear marked just for survival.
She had been waiting on my father to return from work, so that she could go to the grocery store to pick up a few much needed items. Mrs.Bowman, a neighbor lady, knocked on the door with a message from my father, he would be home later then expected and she should go without him. (My parents didn't have a phone.) She even offered to sit the kids, as it was getting dark and my mother had to hurry to get there before the store closed. In those days stores closed early on Christmas Eve.
Winter can be bitter in Chicago, and the wind bit my mother's bare legs, and sliced through her old coat, as she walked the 4 blocks to the store. (My mom always wore dresses, no matter what.) She was nearly frozen as she approached the store's parking lot. She felt something wrap itself around her ankle. Looking down and pulling it off, she saw it was a $5 bill! Five dollars! A small fortune in those days. She looked about for its owner, someone who might have dropped it, even though she was sorely tempted to just cram it into her pocket. Then she saw the man, standing nearly hidden in the shadows. "'scuse me," she said approaching him, "but have you lost something?"
He took a step from the shadows. She was struck by the fact that although he didn't appear dressed for the cold, as he wore only a jacket, he didn't appear cold. He smiled at her, the most beautiful smile she has ever seen.
"Yes, ma'am. Five dollars, to be exact."
"Then this is yours," she extended the bill towards him.
"Keep it. Get the kids something nice." My mother's jaw fell open. The second half of what he said wouldn't hit her until later.
"Are you sure? It's an awful lot-" but the man had already turned walking off, cutting across a section of fresh snow. "Thank you! Merry Christmas!" She called after him as she assumed he disappeared into the darker shadows, but (and she is adamant about this) he left no prints in the snow where he walked. She went and took a good look when she finished shopping. But her Christmas Miracle didn't end there.
Inside on a long table, was an assortment of plastic toys. She quickly chose two plastic 'dress me' dolls, and a red fire truck. The owner of the store was working the counter, and he placed some candy into her bag telling her to hush when she objected. He knew our family, and wanted to be 'allowed to spoil those babies' just a little. My mother says that never had a full bag of groceries felt so light to carry on the walk home.
Back home, Mrs. Bowman left and returned with some fabric scraps she thought were big enough to create outfits for the dolls with. Soon, they had the kids fed and put down, and they busied themselves with sewing tiny dresses until my father came home; lugging behind him a small tree! The reason he was late, was he had the chance to work for a friend at a Christmas tree lot, and this one was left over. The friend let him have it and paid him a whopping 50 cents to boot!
"You can say 'coincidence' and folks being kind all you want," my mother would say when telling this story, "but you tell me, what kind of man could possibly know that I had kids, and leave no prints in the snow... Except for a Christmas Spirit?"