“Merry Christmas,” a deep booming voice echoed down the apartment hall.
The door cracked slowly then opened wide. A surprise visitor stood outside the home of Moses and Tabitha Rendon on Saturday.
The couple and their five boys weren’t on Santa’s needy list this year.
But with a heart the size of Christmas, Santa could turn no one away.
So when he and the volunteer firefighters helping him deliver toys that morning saw several of the boys outside of Normandy Apartments and learned that Christmas was being delayed for them this year, they wanted to help.
“I actually just got up because I heard the baby and people downstairs,” Tabitha said.
As the couple stood in their living room, it was hard to tell that Christmas was only a few days away.
There was no Christmas tree from which to hang tinsel.
No stockings could be seen and no ornaments decorated the counters.
“We were not going to do too much this year,” Tabitha said. “We got into a little financial trouble.”
“We were going to have Christmas in January,” Moses added.
Tabitha’s face brightened as she spoke. Moses smiled — his face still showed a bit of bewilderment at what had just occurred.
Someone, a benefactor unknown to either, had given them Christmas. And it came without them even asking.
“We really don’t know where all this came from,” she said.
Those gifts, and the baskets of food, came from money donated by numerous businesses throughout the county including H-E-B, Aztec Chevrolet, Pete Patel and Pride Automotive.
In all, 207 children would receive presents from Santa, thanks to the numerous volunteers including businessmen, law enforcement officers and veterans who converged Saturday morning at Aztec Chevrolet. Sixty families received baskets of food, and four elderly people received care baskets.
Earlier that morning, these volunteer firefighters escorted Santa to another apartment. This time the residents knew he was coming.
And these children could barely contain their excitement.
Santa’s steps were silent as he made his way up the winding staircase to apartment No. 4.
“Ho, ho, ho,” he called from outside the sliding glass door.
As the door cracked, a small child’s innocent voice echoed through the hearts of those outside.
“I love you Santa,” Keely Lockhart said.
She and her siblings had spent the night in the living room waiting for Santa.
Her mother, Janie Campos, fought back tears as she looked around the room.
In the corner — a tree. It held only a handful of presents. There was one for each child. No more.
“It was a real big help,” she said. “I have had this window broken and then this window broken and together it was right at $500.
“So we were not going to have any Christmas other than what is under the tree.”
Her children, most notably Keely, forgive the cliche, who was as excited as a child on Christmas morning, were pleased with the surprise Saturday.
As Keely stood in the living room, she plucked a candy cane from the tree.
“Merry Christmas,” she said as she returned the favor and tried to spread a bit of cheer herself to one of those who came with Santa that morning.
Jason Collins is the editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 121, or at editor@mySouTex.com.