I celebrated my 63rd Christmas this year and I found myself reflecting on many of my past Christmases. Some of them were joyful and filled with glee and joy while others were filled with heartbreak and pain. Not every gift at Christmas is love-filled.
I experienced Christmas from an early age as special in many ways.
My mom cooked a traditional English dinner complete with a Standing Rib Roast and all the trimmings. We ate in the formal dining room in our home and it was all about the family being around the table together.
My dad wrote little riddles on the gift cards for the gifts he gave to my mom and I thought that made the gift that much more meaningful for both of them.
My parents made sure that the gifts under the tree were plentiful for my sisters and me. There were some Christmases when we could barely get to the tree for all of the gifts spreading out beyond the tree skirt.
Santa brought the gifts that we dreamed of all year and they were usually the first things we saw when we walked into the living room early on Christmas morning.
One tradition that challenged me was having to wait until everyone was awake before going to see Santa had brought us, we didn’t open the gifts until we were all in place around the tree. Dad handing out the gifts and we took turns one by one opening one gift at a time until all of them were opened. Some Christmas mornings lasted for what seemed like hours while we opened the bouncy of gifts.
All of the joy of Christmas came to a crashing halt in 1969 when my dad moved out of the house. We opened gifts in the morning like any previous Christmas, we played with our new toys, and that year all of us kids in the neighborhood got skates so we’re able to enjoy them in the South Florida mild weather and we sat down to Christmas dinner in the formal dining room.
After dinner, we went back out to skate with our friends and were stopped in our tracks when we saw dad putting suitcases in the car, We were told that he was leaving and moving out, at that moment I had my first ever confusion of emotions-joy torn apart by sadness.
I will never know why he decided to move out on Christmas day and at this point it is irrelevant.
The impact that Christmas had on me for years was traumatic and dramatic, thankfully my mom made a massive effort to make Christmas fun and enjoyable with new traditions.
My mom modeled for me and my sisters how to bounce back from a painful Christmas with three things.
1. Giving-my mom gave so generously and with deep thought for each gift that she selected for my sisters and me. She started her shopping each summer and hid the gifts in places like the car trunk or under her bed. She hid them so well she sometimes gifted us the same gift-one being bought in the summer the other at the last minute.
2. Grace-my mom focused on what we had at Christmas not what we did not have when we opened the gifts. She made sure we knew the true meaning of the season.
3. Gratitude-my mom made sure we knew how to express our appreciation for the gifts we received. No matter the size of the gift, we always said thank you enthusiastically to the giver.
This Christmas will be my first without my mom, and it is bringing up some of the memories of the Christmas day that my dad moveed out.
I can’t help but think, how would mom support me in my feelings? I am certain she would have me focus on all of the gifts, love, and joy that I have in my life. I think I will go with those thoughts and feelings rather than the painful ones.
Growth is inevitable and the past many decades have taught me to learn from my life experiences.
This year my focus had been on giving from my heart, living in the grace of being loved by so many people, and expressing gratitude for all that is in my life.
How can you support those in your life who might have some painful Christmas memories?
What Christmas traditions do you look forward to each year?
Did Santa bring you what you dreamed of getting all year?
Happy Christmas and Feliz Navidad
With much gratitude…