My Christmas Memory

I have a nice life now, however I have not always had it so easy.

My mother raised my brother and I by herself. She worked hard, sometimes two jobs, sometimes at night – doing whatever it took to give us the things we needed to survive. Some years were harder than others… some sting just thinking about them – like the years where there were no Christmas presents and people brought us donated food in boxes so that we would have a nice dinner. Some years were very, very good – like the years when my mom was able to buy me a prom dress and shoes. Overall, it was a fantastic childhood, however those hard holiday years still stick with me. I blame them for my disdain of Christmas. And, I believe they are the reason I always go overboard with gift giving. I tend to spend too much money, buying the kids too many things…but it makes me feel good to do it – because I can.

I remember one Christmas where there was next-to-nothing under the tree. It was not the worst Christmas in my memories but it was near the bottom. It did include free food from the Church (which was amazing, and I loved it, and I don’t mean to knock the charity at all), and we had friends surrounding us and we were all fairly healthy and happy – so that part was good.

-- Let’s establish right now that I know Christmas isn’t about toys, or clothes. It isn’t about giving or receiving things. It is about something grander…it is about family and religion and hope. It can be so much more than I used to make of it – but to a kid – it is about the stuff. And as a kid – I just never had the stuff.--

So that very memorable year, we went to a friend’s house for Christmas dinner. It was one of the most painful holidays I can recall, because it was the first year I remember noticing how little we had in comparison to those around us. I walked into our friend’s house to a house full of new toys and clothes. I had never witnessed such a lavish display of gifts. I had no idea that people lived like that…and boy did it sting. Yes I was shallow. Yes it was wrong. But I was 10, and had received a book of life savers and a cat calendar. It was not the worst year in terms of gifts received, but it paled in comparison to the stuff those kid were given from Santa. The Santa they still believed in. The Santa that I came to know didn’t exist when I was 4 because my parents had gotten divorced and my dead-beat dad packed up and left town to some unknown place in the country where he could squander away his money and never ever again be forced to send to us – leaving us poor, poor, poor. Stupid fake Santa.

Is there a point to this? No idea. I just know that I always think about my past this time of year. I think about how far I have come and I think about those less fortunate. I try to give money, gifts, time to those less fortunate and hope that I make a difference to them. I hope that I can make the holidays just a little bit better for someone who is now in the same boat as me all those years ago. I hope you do the same.