The Best Christmas Ever

A few years ago, I was reading the local paper when a story entitled “Helping Hands” jumped right out at me. It was a heart-wrenching story about a family in need.

After settling into my office, I contacted the Salvation Army to inquire about the family.

“This one’s a bad one,” the woman on the phone told me. “The mother was raped a month ago, the father’s no where to be found and the two little boys are in God’s hands.” There was a dramatic pause. “Except for a tree already donated, they have nothing!” The old lady sighed.

I glanced down at the paper and caught a quote from the older of the two boys. “The only thing I wish for is to have Christmas dinner with my Mom and little brother.” It was signed, Michael Joseph, 8 (my own son’s age). I checked the calendar. There were seven shopping days until the big night. As if my life depended on it, I promised, “We’ll make sure they get their dinner, and then some!”

The kind woman said she’d check with the mother and get right back to me. She did. I received an address, a telephone number and the clothes sizes of the boys.

The telephone hadn’t rested in its cradle for more than a minute before I began recruiting like a dictator preparing for war. Priorities were changed and my day planner was immediately altered to include shooting emails, posting flyers and bouncing from cubicle to cubicle in an attempt to wake the walking dead. Most agreed it was a noble cause and promised to lend a hand.

Within the first two days, neatly wrapped presents were being stacked on the threshold of my office. The cardboard box converted into a food bin was quickly filling. Someone even donated two brand new winter coats. The entire experience touched me more than anything had in decades. Just when I thought I’d seen it all, I was pleasantly surprised to witness one human being after another rushing to the aid of those who desperately needed it. It was both humbling and exhilarating at the same time.

When I finally got in touch with the mother, she was a babbling mess. In the midst of her heavy sobbing, we confirmed a mutual time to drop off the goodies. “How will I know it’s you?” she asked.

“I’ll be the fat guy in the bright red suit!”

She was crying even more when I hung up.

The morning of the big day, I watched as my wife filled two giant red stockings with plastic airplanes, Matchbox cars, various action figures and enough candy to disturb any dentist. When she thought I wasn’t watching, she also stuffed several wrapped presents into Santa’s bulging sack. I secretly checked the labels beneath the red and green bows. They read: “For Mom.”

Even the office pulled together like nothing I’d ever seen. It was absolutely magical. My one simple idea had snowballed into the common cause of many. It was amazing!

I pulled into the office parking lot and insured the entire rented suit was intact. I knew I was about to embark on a journey that would change my life forever.

Seconds ticked away like hours until three o’clock rolled around. As I headed for the bathroom to get changed, Danny Calis and Brad Cowen approached. “If you don’t already have some,” Danny said, “we’d like to play your elves and give you a hand carrying these things.”

“That would be great!” I told him. Time was the hottest commodity amongst my co-workers. Folks rarely volunteered for anything.

The caravan rolled past the graffiti-covered and charred dumpsters until finally halting in the heart of the housing project. I checked my white beard in the rear-view. It was already so tangled and matted with saliva that it made me gag. As my heart pounded out of my chest, Brad shoved the jolly fat man out of the van.

The self-contained neighborhood was desolate with the exception of three youths standing on the corner. As if they were dancers, they shuffled their feet in an attempt to keep warm. They heckled me once, but when I looked over they only smiled. There was nothing to worry about. I was Santa. Nobody was naughty enough to mess with Father Christmas. “A Merry Christmas to you, my friends,” I called out with a wave. They laughed.

Danny grabbed the food box and grunted with each step. It weighed over a hundred pounds and contained enough food to last three weeks. Brad took the two bags of clothes that were collected and I shouldered his heavy sack of toys. I was already sweating.

My white gloves hadn’t knocked twice before a young woman fumbled with the lock and slowly opened the door. She was crying and I knew right off that we’d found the right apartment. “Boys,” she squealed, “look who’s here!”

“Ho. Ho. Ho,” I pushed from the base of my diaphragm. One step in and everything turned to a blur. I tried to stop it, telling myself, “Santa Claus doesn’t cry.” It wasn’t so easy.

The living room was decorated to the taste of someone who had nothing. Still, it was spotless. There was one armchair, with strips of gray tape holding back the stuffing that fought to escape. There was a small TV, perhaps even broken, sitting atop a scarred wooden stand. A sad green tree was propped up in the corner—in terrible need of ornaments and lights. And there was a long brown couch with two little boys sitting right in the middle of its old lap. I think I actually gasped when I saw them. In a display of good manners, they both held their folded hands in their laps. Their eyes made me lose my breath. There was excitement, disbelief and overwhelming joy—all at the same time. I dropped to one knee. My plastic spectacles were fogging up and I didn’t want to miss a thing.

Looking to his mother for permission, the older one finally stood, confidently walked over and wrapped his arms around me. Like his mother, he was weeping freely. I fought to be strong. Breaking the embrace, Michael ran to his mom and hugged her. As if the words had been sifted through a wad of cotton, she exclaimed, “See…what did I tell you guys? If you believe hard enough, anything you wish for CAN come true!”

I struggled for air when I looked up to find the smaller boy standing two feet from me. I watched as his eyes danced from excitement to curiosity to doubt, circling back to excitement. I grabbed the little tyke and pulled him close. Just then, the tiny voice asked, “Are you da real Santa, or a fake Santa?”

I eased away. “What do you think?”

Again, those big eyes traveled a path that could only be described as heavenly. Finally stopping at a place called faith, his entire face lit up. He screamed, “You da real Santa!” Jumping into my extended arms, he turned his attention toward his brother and screamed again, “Mikey, it’s da real Santa!”

“I know, Robby,” a voice mumbled. Michael was still swaying in his mother’s arms.

I finally stood to catch Brad wiping his eyes and Danny straightening out the crooked tree. Reaching for my sack, I placed present after present—the love and compassion of nearly a hundred people I knew—beneath the evergreen. As I handed the red stockings over to the boys, I spoke slowly, “Michael, Robby…Santa’s very proud of you for the way you’ve been good for your mom. I want you to remember, I’m always watching and your mom’s right. If you believe hard enough, anything you ever dream for can come true. You just have to believe!”

There were more hugs from the boys. As I prepared to leave, I presented their mom with the lovely gifts my wife had packed. “Merry Christmas,” I said with a hug.

“How can I ever thank you?” she sobbed into my shoulder.

“You already have,” I told her. “It’s been a long time since I’ve believed in Santa Claus. Thank you for that!”

The ride back to the office parking lot was driven in silence. There truly were no words to describe the magic we’d just shared. After bidding my elves farewell, I stripped out of most of the sweltering outfit and started for home.

It was the best Christmas ever.

The Rockin’ Chair is released on June 18th!

A rich portrait of a family at a crossroad, The Rockin’ Chair has been called my most heartfelt and emotionally engaging novel to date. If family matters to you, it is a story you must read.

Synopsis: Memories are the ultimate contradiction. They can warm us on our coldest days – or they can freeze a loved one out of our lives forever. The McCarthy family has a trove of warm memories. Of innocent first kisses. Of sumptuous family meals. Of wondrous lessons learned at the foot of a rocking chair. But they also have had their share of icy ones. Of words that can never be unsaid. Of choices that can never be unmade. Of actions that can never be undone.

Following the death of his beloved wife, John McCarthy – Grandpa John – calls his family back home. It is time for them to face the memories they have made, both warm and cold. Only then can they move beyond them and into the future.

 Early Reviews include:

The Rockin’ Chair is a heart-rending story of a family, separated by pride and ambition only to be brought together by the strength of their ability to grow emotionally and spiritually. Manchester’s flawless dialogue, warm characters and compassionate wit all service a moving story. He reminds us that simple sentiments are often the truest. His contrast of the permanence of the landscape with the transience of human life leaves us with a feeling of wonder long after the final page is turned.”  - Corinna Underwood, Reviewer, Publisher’s Weekly

 “The Rockin’ Chair is a tightly knit tearjerker.” – Jon Land, NYTimes Bestselling Author; The Walls of Jericho

“In The Rockin’ Chair, Steven Manchester has created a book that can change the world. If only everyone would listen to Grampa John and express their love for each other, what a different world it would be.”  - Heather Froeschl, Book Reviewer, BookReview.com

2013 Book Awards

The results are in for the 2013 National Indie Excellence Awards:

Twelve Months- Finalist (Death & Dying category)

Goodnight, Brian- Finalist (Inspiration category)

http://www.indieexcellence.com/indie-results-2013-finalists.htm

The results are also in for the 2013 International Book Awards:

Twelve Months- Finalist (Spirituality: Inspirational)

Goodnight, Brian - Finalist (Fiction: Chick Lit/Women’s Lit)

http://internationalbookawards.com/2013awardannouncement.html

 

Goodnight, Brian has been released!

I’m excited to announce that my new novel, Goodnight, Brian was just released!

Paperback & Kindle:

http://www.amazon.com/Goodnight-Brian-ebook/dp/B00A6DBE10/ref=sr_1_sc_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1353860480&sr=1-1-spell&keywords=goodbight+brian+manchester

Nook:

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/goodnight-brian-steven-manchester/1113610286?ean=9781611880618

My last novel, Twelve Months, became a #1 best seller on Amazon (thanks to lots of support). We’re shooting for the New York Times with this one!

PLEASE help me spread the word and share this on your FB Page (asking your friends to do the same). I’d really appreciate it.

The Best Christmas Ever

A few years ago, I was reading the local paper when a story entitled “Helping Hands” jumped right out at me. It was a heart-wrenching story about a family in need.

After settling into my office, I contacted the Salvation Army to inquire about the family.

“This one’s a bad one,” the woman on the phone told me. “The mother was raped a month ago, the father’s no where to be found and the two little boys are in God’s hands.” There was a dramatic pause. “Except for a tree already donated, they have nothing!” The old lady sighed.

I glanced down at the paper and caught a quote from the older of the two boys. “The only thing I wish for is to have Christmas dinner with my Mom and little brother.” It was signed, Michael Joseph, 8 (my own son’s age). I checked the calendar. There were seven shopping days until the big night. As if my life depended on it, I promised, “We’ll make sure they get their dinner, and then some!”

The kind woman said she’d check with the mother and get right back to me. She did. I received an address, a telephone number and the clothes sizes of the boys.

The telephone hadn’t rested in its cradle for more than a minute before I began recruiting like a dictator preparing for war. Priorities were changed and my day planner was immediately altered to include shooting emails, posting flyers and bouncing from cubicle to cubicle in an attempt to wake the walking dead. Most agreed it was a noble cause and promised to lend a hand.

Within the first two days, neatly wrapped presents were being stacked on the threshold of my office. The cardboard box converted into a food bin was quickly filling. Someone even donated two brand new winter coats. The entire experience touched me more than anything had in decades. Just when I thought I’d seen it all, I was pleasantly surprised to witness one human being after another rushing to the aid of those who desperately needed it. It was both humbling and exhilarating at the same time.

When I finally got in touch with the mother, she was a babbling mess. In the midst of her heavy sobbing, we confirmed a mutual time to drop off the goodies. “How will I know it’s you?” she asked.

“I’ll be the fat guy in the bright red suit!”

She was crying even more when I hung up.

 

The morning of the big day, I watched as my wife filled two giant red stockings with plastic airplanes, Matchbox cars, various action figures and enough candy to disturb any dentist. When she thought I wasn’t watching, she also stuffed several wrapped presents into Santa’s bulging sack. I secretly checked the labels beneath the red and green bows. They read: “For Mom.”

Even the office pulled together like nothing I’d ever seen. It was absolutely magical. My one simple idea had snowballed into the common cause of many. It was amazing!

 

I pulled into the office parking lot and insured the entire rented suit was intact. I knew I was about to embark on a journey that would change my life forever.

Seconds ticked away like hours until three o’clock rolled around. As I headed for the bathroom to get changed, Danny Calis and Brad Cowen approached. “If you don’t already have some,” Danny said, “we’d like to play your elves and give you a hand carrying these things.”

“That would be great!” I told him. Time was the hottest commodity amongst my co-workers. Folks rarely volunteered for anything.

The caravan rolled past the graffiti-covered and charred dumpsters until finally halting in the heart of the housing project. I checked my white beard in the rear-view. It was already so tangled and matted with saliva that it made me gag. As my heart pounded out of my chest, Brad shoved the jolly fat man out of the van.

The self-contained neighborhood was desolate with the exception of three youths standing on the corner. As if they were dancers, they shuffled their feet in an attempt to keep warm. They heckled me once, but when I looked over they only smiled. There was nothing to worry about. I was Santa. Nobody was naughty enough to mess with Father Christmas. “A Merry Christmas to you, my friends,” I called out with a wave. They laughed.

Danny grabbed the food box and grunted with each step. It weighed over a hundred pounds and contained enough food to last three weeks. Brad took the two bags of clothes that were collected and I shouldered his heavy sack of toys. I was already sweating.

My white gloves hadn’t knocked twice before a young woman fumbled with the lock and slowly opened the door. She was crying and I knew right off that we’d found the right apartment. “Boys,” she squealed, “look who’s here!”

“Ho. Ho. Ho,” I pushed from the base of my diaphragm. One step in and everything turned to a blur. I tried to stop it, telling myself, “Santa Claus doesn’t cry.” It wasn’t so easy.

The living room was decorated to the taste of someone who had nothing. Still, it was spotless. There was one armchair, with strips of gray tape holding back the stuffing that fought to escape. There was a small TV, perhaps even broken, sitting atop a scarred wooden stand. A sad green tree was propped up in the corner—in terrible need of ornaments and lights. And there was a long brown couch with two little boys sitting right in the middle of its old lap. I think I actually gasped when I saw them. In a display of good manners, they both held their folded hands in their laps. Their eyes made me lose my breath. There was excitement, disbelief and overwhelming joy—all at the same time. I dropped to one knee. My plastic spectacles were fogging up and I didn’t want to miss a thing.

Looking to his mother for permission, the older one finally stood, confidently walked over and wrapped his arms around me. Like his mother, he was weeping freely. I fought to be strong. Breaking the embrace, Michael ran to his mom and hugged her. As if the words had been sifted through a wad of cotton, she exclaimed, “See…what did I tell you guys? If you believe hard enough, anything you wish for CAN come true!”

I struggled for air when I looked up to find the smaller boy standing two feet from me. I watched as his eyes danced from excitement to curiosity to doubt, circling back to excitement. I grabbed the little tyke and pulled him close. Just then, the tiny voice asked, “Are you da real Santa, or a fake Santa?”

I eased away. “What do you think?”

Again, those big eyes traveled a path that could only be described as heavenly. Finally stopping at a place called faith, his entire face lit up. He screamed, “You da real Santa!” Jumping into my extended arms, he turned his attention toward his brother and screamed again, “Mikey, it’s da real Santa!”

“I know, Robby,” a voice mumbled. Michael was still swaying in his mother’s arms.

I finally stood to catch Brad wiping his eyes and Danny straightening out the crooked tree. Reaching for my sack, I placed present after present—the love and compassion of nearly a hundred people I knew—beneath the evergreen. As I handed the red stockings over to the boys, I spoke slowly, “Michael, Robby…Santa’s very proud of you for the way you’ve been good for your mom. I want you to remember, I’m always watching and your mom’s right. If you believe hard enough, anything you ever dream for can come true. You just have to believe!”

There were more hugs from the boys. As I prepared to leave, I presented their mom with the lovely gifts my wife had packed. “Merry Christmas,” I said with a hug.

“How can I ever thank you?” she sobbed into my shoulder.

“You already have,” I told her. “It’s been a long time since I’ve believed in Santa Claus. Thank you for that!”

The ride back to the office parking lot was driven in silence. There truly were no words to describe the magic we’d just shared. After bidding my elves farewell, I stripped out of most of the sweltering outfit and started for home.

It was the best Christmas ever.

 

A Christmas Wish (Amazon Kindle exclusive)

Amazon released my new Kindle Single, A CHRISTMAS WISH, for 99 cents
http://www.amazon.com/Christmas-Wish-holiday-Goodnight-ebook/dp/B00AFDGZ1K/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1354228275&sr=1-1&keywords=a+christmas+wish+manch…ester

Synopsis:
In this heartwarming holiday story, Steven Manchester, author of the #1 Kindle bestseller TWELVE MONTHS, takes us into the world of three of his characters from his novel GOODNIGHT, BRIAN (January 2013). Steph is on a search for truth in her heart as she faces the prospect of real love for the first time. Brian is out to enjoy his favorite season in a way that doctors never thought he could. And at the center of it all is their grandmother, affectionately known as Mama, a woman of remarkable commitment and charity who knows something very important about making Christmas wishes come true. This brief, beautiful tale captures the promise of the holidays and the longing we all have for the magic of the season.

This story is a prequel to my novel, GOODNIGHT, BRIAN (out January 8th). If you enjoy the read, we’d really appreciate it if you could post a brief review on Amazon. Thanks!

Insatiable Readers Review

This is a story about the best lived twelve months a man could ask for and a reminder to us all that any second could be our last; how do you want to remember them…or better still, how do you want to BE remembered? Certainly, it’s one I’d recommend and despite the assumption of needing tissues for the read, I’d rather you have a notebook to record your thoughts, impressions and perhaps your own list of things to do.

To read more… http://insatiablereaders.blogspot.com/2012/11/twelve-months-by-steven-manchester.html