Sandy and Eric Thompson seemed to have it all. He was a successful business executive and Sandy volunteered her time at the local hospital. Still after 11 years of marriage, they lacked one thing – a child of their own.

Adoption, especially for Eric, was simply out of the question. “Absolutely not,” Eric once said. “I refuse to raise someone else’s mistake.” That was that.

As Christmas approached, Sandy realized once again the only toys she would be buying would be for her sister’s two boys and three girls in a house that every year seemed to define Christmas. Seven stockings were always hung on the fireplace mantle and Sandy’s sister’s tree was always neatly trimmed near the bottom to allow for the avalanche of gifts arriving early Christmas morning.

Needless to say, for Sandy those long days before Christmas were just another downhearted reminder that she and her husband remained childless. Eric felt it too but preferred to suffer in silence ignoring the constant “elephant in the room.”

Henry was not quite 6. As one of his caseworkers at the county orphanage once described him: “Henry has beautiful eyes, but still he’s full of mystery, mischief and often complete mayhem.”

Young Henry had been in the state orphanage since his drug-addicted mother had abandoned him when he was barely 2 years old. It was never determined who Henry’s father really was and soon after his mother died from an overdose, there didn’t seem to be anyone for Henry. No aunts, no uncles and no grandparents. So, Henry faced another Christmas at the orphanage with its threadbare plastic tree and the large four-foot cut-out of Santa Claus with its ever-noticeable large cardboard crease that ran right along Santa’s not quite white beard.

A few days before Christmas, the children of the orphanage boarded the bus for their annual shopping trip to town where each child was allowed to pick out one toy from the bottom shelf of the toy store. Of course, the very bottom shelf was where the used, often broken, toys were placed and priced so low it caused one to wonder why they were not simply free for the taking.

As the children with their meager gifts boarded the bus for the return ride back to the orphanage, a worker noticed the count was one short.

“Who’s missing,” one care-giver yelled. “Ok, let’s count again,” she added.

“It’s Henry,” a child’s voice answered. “That child!” exclaimed an adult voice almost screaming. About the same time, Eric had left work and driven to the hardware store to purchase a part for his snowblower which had unexpectedly broken. Exiting the store, Eric couldn’t help but notice a little boy shivering in the cold in a corner next to the store.

Looking at the lad who was wearing a threadbare coat that was at least one size too small, Eric asked slowly, “Are you lost, son?”

Silence. “It’s getting dark, where are you parents,” he asked the boy. More silence. “Son, my name is Eric. You can’t stay out here in the cold – you’ll freeze.”

It was then Eric noticed the crystal-like tears along the little child’s face. Eric called his wife, Sandy. “What should I do? I just can’t leave him here,” he told her. “You need to call the police,” she advised.

For some unknown reason, Eric decided to take the little boy home and out of the cold and he could call the police from there. As you might expect, the police were able to determine that the young boy was missing from the orphanage.

End of story? Not quite. Sandy and especially Eric couldn’t get the mischievous, mop-headed little boy out of their mind. “Want to make Christmas special,” Eric asked Sandy. “I know a little boy who might really enjoy Christmas here at our house with enough presents under the tree to rival your sister,” he added joyfully.

Then with a determined look on his face, he said, “Maybe that precious child might want to spend every Christmas here from now on.”

Sandy couldn’t hold back her tears as she buried her head into her husband’s chest. Then she repeated softly, “Christmas wishes do come true.”

Mike Fitsko is a retired principal and longtime columnist from New Braunfels.

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