There is this writing program sponsored by my cancer hospital that allows patients to express themselves and get an opportunity to publish their work. Each year, I try to write a piece and submit it for publication. For this year, however, I tried to write what I didn’t realize would be a complicated story for me – a lot of buried emotions came alive.
I’ve been focusing on childhood stories about my grandmother and me, and this year was no different. I was inspired to write about that one Christmas when I did not get any presents. I thought it was an interesting story to share for so many reasons— the cultural aspect of it and the feeling of injustice from a child’s perspective were both intriguing topics for me. No one ever spoke about that Christmas in my family. I never mentioned it either, mostly because I felt embarrassed. (For years, I wondered what I had done wrong that Santa did not forgive me for!). I now understand that it was emotionally painful for everyone involved. But still, this experience was such an eye-opener for me. Whether it was intentional or not, I think this was the first day I had a taste of adulthood – when I realized that Santa doesn’t always show up, and you sort of have to roll with it.
I never finished writing the story this year, mostly because I got a late start. The thing that was surprising to me is that, as I was writing it, I started to cry. After all those years, I did not think this specific memory would affect me. But I didn’t cry because of the sadness I remembered feeling that year. The tears came from something else.
The last month or two, my fiancé had been asking me for a wish list to get some ideas for presents for me. It was very hard for me to come up with a simple list of things for him and his family to consider. I haven’t really celebrated the holidays for a long, long time. And to be honest, I’ve always considered it to be just another distraction. And the older I get, the more complicated I find it to be. I know it’s a good reason to reconnect and just do little things for one another – a reason to do some escaping from reality perhaps. But even doing these things has become overwhelming for me. Where did my Christmas spirit go?
But going back to that childhood story I could not finish; I’ve been thinking about why I felt so emotional about it. I realize that as I get older, my wishes become more elusive. I stopped wanting anything concrete long ago. What I really want can’t be purchased or recovered.
Looking back to that Christmas day when Santa didn’t come, I realize now that, as poor as we were when I was a little kid, I really had it all. I was just a child, who like everyone else, didn’t realize the richness of her world. It didn’t matter that there were no presents under my Christmas tree that year. I had a wonderful home where I always felt loved, protected and cared for. I had my innocence, my health (without the need of constant monitoring), my youth, and the best grandma anyone could ever ask for. I guess those would be the items I would put on my wish list today, if I could. The things that I wish so much I had back in my life.
I know many of you probably feel the same way too. And it’s totally OK to miss what we once had, even when there are other blessings in our lives.
Wishing you all kindness and a great sense of peace for the New Year, and the desire to create new meaning in your lives.