In high school we were given the assignment to write a story about our family during the holidays. I was a kid and didn’t really appreciate my family at the time. I talked about my family as any teenager would, pointing out the oddities and ridiculousness of tradition. Now that I'm older, I realize the quirks I once saw as character flaws, are actually the threads that will, and do, hold a family together.
When I look back over the years, some of the best times with my family have been during the holidays. As I have become an adult those times become even more cherished, little pieces of time, nuggets of gold that we carry around in our hearts.
I have to be honest and state that I struggled with the topic of this post. We all have our favorite Christmas memories. We all also have those memories that are not so merry. Those are the ones we remember more than the good ones. We think of them as scars on our perfect greeting cards. The truth is, those scars make the meaning of Christmas that much more poignant. Those are the events that show us the true meaning of Christmas.
When I was younger I couldn’t wait to start my life. It was never about what was happening at that moment, it was more about what was ahead of me, the bright, limitless future. As soon as I graduated from high school I moved out on my own. In that time I became fairly estranged from my family and Christmas was just another holiday. The holidays came and went, and I was alone for Thanksgiving and Christmas. I lived in a one bedroom apartment by myself, and friends were co-workers. I worked all the time. It was better than sitting in a silent apartment, so of course I worked the holidays.
In February of the next year I found myself in a predicament and went to my mother’s house to ask for help. No one was home, but I went inside anyway. She and I hadn’t spoken in months, and my visit was unannounced. As I walked through my childhood home it felt different, foreign and like I didn’t belong there. Nothing about the house had changed, and I ventured into the kitchen where I found an overflowing gift basket with my name on it. The dust around the gift told me it had been sitting there for a while, just waiting to be claimed. It was then I realized I had changed. When I left my family, I was of the mindset that I was a girl without a family. As I stood there, it dawned on me that I was wrong. My family was without a daughter. I left the basket unclaimed, and left the house without leaving a note.
It was time for me to be the daughter who deserved the seat at the family table. It had been saved and left empty, waiting for my return. Seven months passed before I rallied the courage to call my mother and that, to be honest, was out of pure fear of a mother’s wrath. If I didn’t call her that day, I would regret it for the rest of my life. You see, it was August 13th 1994, the day my eldest son was born. I was ready to come home and be part of my family again.
On Christmas I think about the times I lived without my family, and it makes me cherish every moment even more. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, and this is true with holidays as well. You don’t realize what you have until it is gone. So the moral of the story is simple. Enjoy the holidays, cherish your family, savor the time you have. There is no holiday without family, and I use the word family loosely. Family -- meaning those who are loved and important in our lives. Happy Holidays to you all! I will see you in 2017!