I’m not a nostalgic person. My mind is filled with wonderful memories, but they aren’t incentive enough to make me long to return to those times. Sometimes I wish I could recapture my naivete. Alas, harsh realities have made that impossible. That’s what I want to talk to you about today: naivete and harsh realities.As a child the magical elements of Christmas were special and I still treasure those memories. My brother would wake me on Christmas morning and we’d sneak into the living room to open gifts. Just thinking of it makes me smile. As we grew older, it became me that woke my brother for our bonding ritual. We later learned that our parents listened to us unwrap and discuss our gifts.
Our parents did us a favor by allowing us to share these moments uninterrupted. There was love in each gift, but the kinship my brother and I fostered held meaning as well. Mom and dad would join us and we’d show them everything we received from Santa (who turned out to be my uncle, I later learned). They would take photos, of course, and then mom would make a huge breakfast. *sigh*
We weren’t rich, but our parents tried their best to get us what we wanted. I can’t remember ever being disappointed on Christmas morning. Our upbringing reflected our parents and their upbringing. My grandmother never turned anyone away. I can remember her telling visitors they didn’t need to leave, we’d find a nail to hang them on. She might not have had much in the way of material possessions, but she’d give you what she had if you needed it. My mother and father were the same way. To mom’s nieces and nephews she was more of a grandmother than aunt.
When my brother married and had children, I did my best to recreate the magic I knew as a child for my nephews and nieces. When I decided to go to college as a non-traditional student, I cut my work hours and didn’t have disposable income. My brother let me live with his family to help me out financially. It was a blessing for which I’ll forever be grateful.
The year my youngest nephew was four, I used the gift card I got from my employer to buy him a gift. The others, who were older, didn’t get anything. I think they understood my financial situation and I made efforts to do things for them throughout the year, like movie outings and such.
Anyway, on Christmas morning of this particular year, my brother had went to pick up his older children and the older children of his wife (blended families). This left my sister-in-law, my youngest nephew and myself. We sat in front of the Christmas tree and watched the little one open his gifts. I’ve never found adequate words to describe what it’s like to watch a child revel in the joy of Christmas morning – the tree, the gifts, the attention. My heart was full.My sister-in-law took this time to tell me that she and my brother had bought me gifts, but decided I didn’t deserve them so they weren’t going to give them to me.
My full heart jumped into my throat threatening to strangle me. I think I said something like ‘ok’ and refocused on my nephew. Afterwards, I returned to my room and wondered why she would tell me that. I hadn’t expected gifts and wouldn’t have thought twice about receiving nothing.
Unfortunately, I held on to that hurt for a very long time. Not the lack of gifts, but the hurtful intent of my sister-in-law’s words. Since that day I haven’t bought one Christmas gift for anyone. My whole notion of giving Christmas gifts had been eradicated with a couple of sentences. If my parents had relied on whether my brother and I deserved gifts, we surely wouldn’t have gotten any. We pushed limits, tested boundaries, disobeyed rules—basically we were normal kids. Despite our imperfections, each Christmas morning we unwrapped wishes and dreams knowing full-well that we were loved.
While I didn’t give gifts on Christmas or even birthdays, I cultivated relationships with loved ones through talk, companionship, mutual interests, laughter, love, support and time. I wouldn’t trade any of the shared experiences with my nephews for all the gifts in the world.
Sometimes I wish my budget would allow me to buy gifts for loved ones, but the things we buy aren’t what truly matters. My biological nephews know they can count on me to listen, lend a hand or just be there to share moments. I’ve maintained relationships with my step-nieces though they aren’t as strong as I’d like.
My brother’s offspring will spend their Christmas mornings with others as will my step-nieces and nephew. They will receive gifts, which they deserve no matter how ornery they have been throughout the year. I’m confident my biological nephews will seek me out during the holidays because our bonds are based on something stronger than material things. We are held together by love—the most precious of gifts—which we give and receive year round.
31 Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. 32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:31-32