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A Girl’s First Christmas

by Saralee Perel

Thirty-seven years ago, a young girl made Christmas cookies for the very first time in her life. All of the cookies came out of the oven looking beautiful . . . except for one.

As she picked up the misfit cookie to put it in the trash, she suddenly stopped and looked at it closely in her hand. Something about throwing it away simply because it was misshapen didn’t feel right to her. “Just because something is different,” she thought, “doesn’t mean it no longer belongs anywhere.”

So she kept the cookie. She even made up a word for it. She called it a woodle. With colorful paints, she gave it a face. This made it seem almost alive. The girl decided not to tell anyone about this new treasure.

Late that night, when the others were asleep, she sat by the light of an old oil lamp and wrote this story.

A Christmas Tale

There once was a lonely woodle,
sad as sad can be.
It knocked on doors, saying to all,
“Can you find a purpose for me?”

No one knew just what it was,
or whatever it was for.
The lonely woodle had nowhere to go
so he wandered from door to door.

Christmas Eve was coming soon.
Oh what a lonely night.
The woodle would sit up all by himself
because Santa was never in sight.

But this Christmas Eve, he decided that he
would not sit at home all alone.
And wrapped himself up in his woolens and gloves
to set out to the street where he’d roam.

As usual, folks would slam their doors
saying, “I have no use for you.”
So he’d brush off the snow and try again,
but others would slam their doors too.

Soon he was ready to give up all hope
of finding a reason to be.
He walked down the street with his head hung low.
“I think it’s all over for me.”

Oddly enough he saw one more house.
On the door there were ribbons and pine.
There were little dog prints throughout the yard.
“I guess I’ll try one more time.”

From the chimney came smoke that smelled so good.
Through the window he saw a tree
that sparkled and glowed with love and warmth.
“Oh, what a fine family!”

He peered in the window for a closer look.
This tree was a sight to behold!
It held cookies and candles and ribbons and balls
and lights that glowed red, green and gold.

It had popcorn and berries with presents below.
His eyes filled with tears just to gaze.
“Boy, would I like to be part of this home
and be loved for the rest of my days.”

His presence was recognized quickly.
A puppy had barked from inside.
The husband and wife came to the door.
“I wonder if I should go hide?”

But it was too late, he was spotted at last.
“Oh I know they’ll have no place for me.”
The woodle was taken into the home
and brought forth for the family to see.

And then he was given a most special gift.
They gave him a reason to be.

For the husband and wife loved him so . . .
that they placed him on top of their tree.

The Woodle Card

This was written by me when I was 25 years old. I was celebrating my first Christmas in 1977. It was the year I married my Christian husband, Bob.

I presented the poem to him that Christmas Eve. Bob had not known about the misshapen cookie. When he had finished reading the poem, he was wordless – touched from the beautiful sentiment. I didn’t say a word either. Instead, I pointed to the top of our tree, where just moments earlier, I had put the woodle.

For thirty-seven Christmases, the woodle has had its special place on top of our Christmas tree, where it has certainly found a reason to be.

To me, a special message of the season is this: It is not just our duty; it’s our privilege to make room at the inn. On the very first Christmas, one individual grew to help millions. By helping even one person in need, we never know what that person will accomplish, once given a chance to belong.

And of finding a reason to be.

Saralee Perel is an award-winning nationally syndicated columnist. Her new book, Cracked Nuts & Sentimental Journeys: Stories From a Life Out of Balance, is available in local bookstores.

It can also be ordered through Amazon, or directly from the publisher, as well as from Saralee for a personalized signed copy.

Her novel, Raw Nerves, is also available as a paperback and an e-book on Amazon.

For more information, please visit her website: or e-mail her at

Books by Saralee Perel.
Click on the book covers to link to the purchase sites