Welcome back to Glencoe. It was brought to my attention that we have never been formally introduced. So for those who might not know me, my name is Richard Norton, and I’ve been a member of Glencoe Community Church since the early 50s. My precious Aileen and I were married in that church, although she passed a few years ago. You’ve been listening to me for the last four years, so hopefully, you’ll settle in for one more story.
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Chad and Charlotte had a relaxing Christmas morning. Micah and Katie would be over later, but it was just the three of them for now.
Sara was ten and an only child. She was at the age where she was embarrassed easily. Nothing is more embarrassing to an only child than opening Christmas gifts with your parents gawking at you and taking pictures. Sara has begged for a brother or sister for five years. It hadn't happened.
You might think Christmas in the Houston household would be over the top, with Chad Houston being worth over ten million dollars. But, if you thought that, you'd be wrong.
Chad and Charlotte were in a position to give Sara everything she thought she had to have, but they didn't do that. It wasn't how they were reared, and it wouldn’t be how they would bring up Sara.
Washington County is one of the poorest in the state, and you see it everywhere. Things have changed, yet there is a stigma about being from the Oaks. Charlotte came from the Oaks and never had two nickels to rub together. Then she met Chad. She didn't want children looking at Sara the way she looked at the well-off children.
It's human nature to want your children to have things you never had growing up, but Chad and Charlotte felt differently. Chad had a ten-year-old pickup truck with 200,000 miles on it when he bought it. Charlotte still drove a used 1990 Chevrolet Celebrity. It wasn't rusty, and it ran well.
They lived off some of the income from Chad's investments. Each month Chad drew out an amount of money equal to the pay of the average Glencoe resident. They lived on that money, and if they ran out of money, they waited and did without.
Chad Houston sold his share of his computer chip company to his partner in 1992. At one time, he led an extravagant life as he chased happiness, but now he and Charlotte led a quiet, frugal life.
Much of their money went to philanthropic endeavors in Washington County. By Charlotte's choice, they moved out of the Benson mansion and lived in a small three-bedroom bungalow on Pine Street. It was Charlotte’s dream house.
Chad had led a fast-paced life in California. He had a mansion in the hills and thought he was living the dream. But all it did was prove how empty his life really was.
Chad Houston was raised in East St. Louis by a single mom who worked two jobs to care for her two boys. Chad never knew his dad. Even without a man in the home, his mom raised her boys to be men of God.
One day he was sitting alone on the patio overlooking the hills outside Silicon Valley. He heard his mother's voice saying, “Chad, you will never be happy unless Jesus is part of your life.” He wasn't happy, and Jesus was no longer part of his life.
Charlotte and her brother, Micah, were products of the Oaks. In Glencoe, that is considered the wrong side of the tracks. Their mother ran off in the night when Charlotte was fifteen. Her father, Paul Barnes, was a worthless scheming bum who proudly lived on welfare and taught Charlotte and Micah how to work the system.
Paul never did an honest day's work in his life. Caring for her younger brother and looking after her no-good father was quite a burden for fifteen-year-old Charlotte. It fell upon her to be both mother and father to Micah.
In 1996 Paul kidnapped his daughter-in-law, Katie, as revenge on Micah, and he paid for it. He was serving time in the Department of Corrections prison in Columbus.
Eleven years ago, a sweet-talking college boy promised Charlotte he'd take her away from the Oaks, but instead, she became pregnant. When he ran off, she was still in the Oaks.
Most everyone knows how Chad and Charlotte first met, but it's one of those classics worth noting. Before moving there, Chad explored Glencoe in an old borrowed pickup truck and got lost in the Oaks. He saw a young girl pushing a baby carriage and stopped to ask her for directions.
I think they both fell in love right then and there. Then, as he drove away, Charlotte asked God, “Why can't I have a man like that?”
Little did she know then that this ordinary man, driving a beat-up pickup, was a millionaire and would be her husband. Yup, it is the drivel that makes a great Hallmark movie.
Charlotte cuddled next to Chad as they watched Sara open her last gift.
“Well, I guess that's about it,” said Chad.
Charlotte smiled coyly as she said, “Not quite, my dear. One more gift is hidden in the tree, and it's for you.”
Sara yelled, “I can get it!”
She went over and started looking in through the branches as Charlotte would say, “Cold...cold...warm...getting warmer...hot!”
Sara pulled out a light box, about eight inches long.
Chad took it and said, “It looks like a new pen and pencil set—my old one is quite tacky.”
Charlotte laughed out loud. “I don't think you will want to write with this.”
Chad unwrapped the gift with a puzzled look on his face. “What in the world is this thing?”
“Well, why don't you look it over until you figure it out, college boy.”
Being a guy, it took Chad a few moments, then he saw the + sign and - sign. The + sign was blue. “Are you? Are we?”
“Yes! Yes! Yes! Next August.”
Chad pulled her into his arms, but Sara couldn't figure out the excitement. Then, feeling left out, she yelled, “Are we what?”
“In August, you will have a baby brother or sister.”
“Really? I want a sister. Can it be a sister? Do you get to pick?”
Chad said, “Nope, it doesn't work that way. You get what God gives you. And what he gives us will be just fine with me.”
Charlotte looked at him, “So you don't want to know whether it's a boy or a girl?”
“No, I'll wait, and you can surprise me.”
Charlotte finally broke out of Chad's grasp and said, “I better check on the turkey and get the rest of dinner going.”
Chad cleaned up and came out to the kitchen with a plastic trash bag full of paper and ribbons. He walked over to Charlotte, kissed her cheek, and pinched her lower cheek.
“Thank you, my love, for the best Christmas present ever. I'll take the trash out and be back in a jiff.”
The doorbell rang, and Charlotte looked at the clock. One thirty. It was way too early to be Micah and Katie. “Sara, I'm busy. Would you see who’s at the door?”
“Yeah! I'll get it.”
In less than a minute, Sara was in the kitchen.
“Who is it, honey?”
“I don't know. He called me sweetie and asked me if I would come to get you.”
“You didn't let him in, did you?”
“You said never let strangers in the house, so I shut the door. He was just standing there on the stoop when I looked out the window.”
“Good. I'll go see who it is.”
Taking off her apron she went to the front door. A tall fit looking man stood with his back to her. She said, “Merry Christmas. I'm sorry to keep you waiting. How can I—.”
The man turned and smiled and said, “Merry Christmas.”
Charlotte brought her hands up to her heart and gasped in disbelief. “You!”