by Betty Thomason Owens
As a child, I loved Christmas. Even though we were a low-income family, I looked forward to it every year. The idea of a jolly, old elf was truly appealing and oh, so intriguing! Then my older brother spoiled all the fun by revealing the true “Santas”– Mom and Dad. That explained a lot, like why I didn’t get the Chatty Cathy doll I’d ordered.
As an adolescent, I became aware that the holiday put pressure on my parents to provide gifts for their growing children. Children who needed clothes and food and medical care. Most of the gifts we received were necessary items. I was thankful for them–but honestly–it wasn’t much fun.
So when it was my turn, and I was the one making Christmas special for my children, I set out to make it fun. Yes, there were socks and underwear included among the gifts, but there were also toys–as many as we could afford. I baked cookies and made treats. From Christmas Eve through Christmas Day, it was all about the children and all about fun. We even had a special brunch on Christmas morning, which they appreciated more as they grew older.
Does it seem odd to you that a child growing up in a low income situation would feel guilty receiving gifts? I must confess, sometimes I still do. Especially when I know the expenditure required sacrifice on the part of the giver.
One year, those guilt feelings caused a problem in my marriage. My husband bought me an expensive watch for Christmas. When I opened the box, I felt guilty. The first words out of my mouth were, “We can’t afford this.” He got angry, and looking back, I don’t blame him. After we recovered from the hurt feelings, he told me he’d saved money for several months to make the purchase. I had no real reason for the guilt. I wore that watch proudly for many years, but he never forgot that first reaction.
Those years are far behind me now. During the holidays, the house fills up with sons, their wives, and the grandchildren. There’s lots of laughter and much ripping of holiday paper. Many, many Christmas cookies and lots of thankful prayers for the gifts of life and love.
I can so relate to the famous short story written by O. Henry, “The Gift of the Magi.” I think many of us aspire to be that selfless, but fear it, at the same time.
What if I make this sacrifice, and I get nothing in return? Well…even if you get nothing in the material sense, you get the smile, and hopefully, the love of the receiver. You get the satisfaction of knowing your sacrifice is appreciated.
The young couple in the story shared a moment of love and warmth (and humor, thanks to O. Henry’s expertise)–priceless!
“Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house…”