“Secondhand Miracle” by Susan Call

I’m excited to be part of A Cup of Christmas Cheer this year! My story, “Secondhand Miracle,” is part of Volume Four: Heartwarming Tales of Christmas Present.

The setting:
The small town in “Secondhand Miracle” is loosely inspired by the historical Victorian town of Lewisburg, located in central Pennsylvania.

The story:
Rugged retired sailor Henry Pearson is a man who welcomes a challenge. Little does he know that his Christmas agreement with his wife, Rose, will prove daunting. This year, hoping to simplify and focus on the true meaning of Christmas, they decide to limit their spending to only $20. Soon he begins to wonder if their agreement is impossible. How can he ever find the perfect meaningful gift?

Just as he thinks all hope is lost, Henry uncovers a bit of Christmas magic in a secondhand shop. His heartwarming gift will be just the perfect treasure to remind Rose of the long legacy and beautiful love they’ve shared together.

Susan Call's ParentsThe inspiration:
Not long ago my dad shared a sweet true story from early in his relationship with my mom. A young sailor passing through a train station near my mother’s college, they hoped for a fleeting glance before he was deployed. Standing on the back of the train as he passed through the busy Philadelphia train station, the two only caught a quick glimpse of one another before his train disappeared from the station. But just before it did, my dad reached in his pocket and tossed my mom a small gift. From the moment I heard how the touching scene unfolded, I knew it begged to be the seed of a bigger story, filled with the same heartwarming emotion and genuine time-enduring love.

The takeaway:
I hope my readers are blessed by the sweetness of an enduring love and a reminder that it’s the simple things at Christmas and in life that truly mean the most.

Christmas traditions:
Every year, my family enjoys making gingerbread houses out of graham crackers. We fill the kitchen table with assorted candies and “building supplies.” We listen to Christmas music while we craft our masterpieces. I welcome the wonderful time of togetherness it provides!

Your turn:
Have you ever received a gift that how you received has its own special story? Why not share that memory with someone today and let the gift of joy you felt keep giving?

My giveaway!

Enter and you could win this beautiful “Love Richly” mug.
The inscription reads “Love Richly – God richly gives us everything to enjoy.”
1 Timothy 6:17.

Susan Call Giveaway

 Click this link to be taken to our Rafflecopter drawing.
Once there, follow the directions to enter. Drawing ends Nov. 30th.

(U.S. addresses only, please.)

For your protection, do not include personal information in a comment.

Congratulations to Caryl K., winner of the giveaway.

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 Check out the Giveaways page on our site to learn about our fun giveaways.

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Susan CallThe storyteller:
Susan Call is an author and speaker whose passion is encouraging contagious hope and inspiring faith-filled strength to overcome life’s challenges. Susan’s memoir, A Search for Purple Cows, also published with Guidepost Books, shares her remarkable story of betrayal, finding faith, the power of forgiveness, and the joy of redemption. She has written for Guidepost Magazine, Chicken Soup for the Soul, and for Focus on the Family Magazine. Susan speaks fluent Swedish and enjoys pursuing a hobby of photography. She’s a proud mother of two children, a wife and a stepmother. Be sure to connect with Susan online by visiting her website at http://susancall.com.

 

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A Parting Gift of Love

Guideposts Magazine featured “A Parting Gift of Love in their October 2014 issue. This is the story behind Susan Call’s moving story, “Secondhand Miracles,” which appears in A Cup of Christmas Cheer, Volume 4: Heartwarming Tales of Christmas Present. The article is reproduced with permission*.

A Parting Gift of Love ImageA Parting Gift of Love

This writer knew all of her father’s stories—except the most important one.

By Susan Call, Londonderry, New Hampshire

I’m a contributor to the Guideposts fiction collection, A Cup of Christmas Cheer. Even though my short story “Secondhand Miracle” is a product of my imagination, it has a clear real-life inspiration.

Last year, I interviewed my dad for an oral-history project about his time in the Navy during the Korean War. Dad told me a story I’d never heard before—a story that I wouldn’t be here without.

December 1950. Dad sat in the rear car of a train and watched the changing landscape through the window. He’d just finished boot camp at the Great Lakes naval station, in Illinois. Now he and the other young sailors were traveling to Newport, Rhode Island, to report for duty.

The train clacked against the rails, lulling the sailors into a midday nap.

But not Dad. His mind was lit up with the image of a beautiful girl with strawberry-blonde hair. Phyllis. Ever since their first date, over burgers and soda back in Pennsylvania—he was from Lewisburg, she was from Mifflinburg, and a friend had set them up—they’d been head over heels for each other.

Even after he joined the Navy and she went to nursing school in Philadelphia, they stayed in each other’s hearts. He yearned to see her once more before he shipped out—and he had a plan to make it happen.

Just a few hours earlier, he’d tracked a porter down at the train station in Illinois and made a special phone call to Pennsylvania. “Phyllis,” he said, “guess what? My train is passing through Philadelphia at five this evening. Come to the station. I have a surprise for you.”

The short call cost Dad nearly a week’s pay, but it was worth every penny. Phyllis promised she’d be there. Would she be able to make it to the station on time? Dad took a small box out of his pocket and opened it. Inside was a black lighter with a pink orchid painted on it. A Christmas present for Phyllis.

The closer the train got to Philadelphia, the harder it was for Dad to sit still. He skipped dinner and stepped out the back door of the train, where he’d have a better view of the platform. He clung to the railing and waited.

The whistle blew. The train lurched to a stop. The sailors were forbidden to disembark. Dad scanned the crowd. Where was she? Holiday travelers scurried about.

Just as the crowd thinned, another train stopped, on the other side of the platform. A new wave of travelers filled the platform once again. “Phyllis!” he yelled desperately. Had he missed his chance?

“All aboard!” the conductor called. Dad’s heart sank. He took one last look at the crowd. A flash of strawberry-blonde hair. There she was! “Phyllis!” he cried. Just then, the train’s wheels began to turn. It was leaving the platform. The movement caught Phyllis’s attention. Her eyes locked with Dad’s.

Not a moment to spare. She darted through the crowd as the train picked up speed. Dad reached into his pocket and pulled out the little box. In one swooping motion, he lobbed it toward her. A tall stranger caught the box and turned toward Phyllis.

“I believe this is yours,” he said. It was quite the spectacle. The crowd on the platform erupted into applause. The two sweethearts blew kisses and waved goodbye as the train pulled out of the station.

Dad completed his mission. When he returned from duty six months later, he and Phyllis got engaged. They married and raised five daughters. I’m the youngest.

How had I never heard this story before? Mom and Dad’s real-life encounter at the train station in Philadelphia planted the seed of inspiration that grew into my fictional tale “Secondhand Miracle.”

Henry and Rose, the couple in the story, learn the most important Christmas lesson my parents taught me—that the greatest gift we can give each other is love.

*“A Parting Gift of Love” by Susan Call from Guideposts Magazine is reproduced with permission from Guideposts, Guideposts.org. Copyright ©2014 by Guideposts. All rights reserved.

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