…of the innocence.
If someone ever made a very, very boring movie of my life that would be the soundtrack for the story I am about to tell you.
I was seven years old.
My sister was eight.
She was worldly and knew what was what. And she knew what she thought I needed to know.
And she thought I needed to know there was no Santa Claus.
Sure, I had heard a few things from kids at school but I was working hard back then at developing the skill of sticking-my-head-in-the-sand which would serve me well even until this day.
To make me pull-my-head-from-the-sand, my sister came up with a plan that was going to prove to me once and for all that “no Jenny. There is no Santa Claus.”
The plan involved a stack of presents that she found in the back of my parents closet.
This stack of presents had our names written on them in ink right on the tape on the wrapping paper.
How my sister figured this out I have no idea.
But she did. And she decided it would be a good thing to show me. Our next younger sister was too little and could be a potential risk of blabbing so she wasn’t included in this momentous plan of anti-Santa revelation.
I have it in my memory that my Mom was busy in the kitchen when my sister and I snuck into her room. From the depths of the closet my sister brought out a bounty of eight boxes. Four with each of our names. She cleverly slit the tape at the end of the package and very, very carefully shook out each shiny, white gift box.
And then she very, very carefully opened each box to reveal the tissue wrapped contents.
I saw a sweater for me. And some socks. And some books. And a Barbie doll with a black and white swimsuit.
And I don’t remember at all what was contained in her four boxes.
And after we looked at each item my sister very, very carefully put each box back into the wrapping paper sleeve and retaped it in the exact same spot and put them back in the closet.
My heart was pounding. I felt sick. And I felt sure that this would only prove that our parents bought SOME of our Christmas presents and that SANTA brought others. My sister laughed at my theory. But I continued to believe this.
Until Christmas morning when the tree had four boxes underneath with my name. I unwrapped each item slowly…with great dread…to see a sweater and some socks and some books and a swimsuit clad Barbie doll. And nothing else.
There were some things in my stocking but I was too heart-broken to care.
All day I felt sad and sick. And my heart hurt with that heavy ache that comes from reality thumping you firmly on top of the head.
This was the first time I felt that ache. And it would certainly not be the last as I discovered that innocence ends and that unsticking-your-head-from-the-sand could sometimes cause a lot of pain.
I don’t remember anything else about that Christmas.
I do remember, though, that the next year I firmly declined my sisters offer to preview presents. I didn’t want to see. I wanted to pretend that everything was the same.
But it wasn’t.
And it really never, ever was again until the day I had my own children and I watched their amazement and joy warm my entire universe as they saw the blazing tree on Christmas morning stacked high with possibilities and promises. That lovely, glittering tree surrounded by boxes containing simple wishes that could make their lives perfect for that single moment of time.
So I learned that filling someones simple wishes brought Christmas to my heart. And the ache was finally gone and Christmas found me once again.
And I found that Christmas always came with the giving.
Whether the giving was filling a wish for a warm coat or whether the giving was merely take the time to listen.
Whether the giving was to my child, or my child’s child, or the child of someone I had never met.
And each year Christmas came and went as it has since the beginning.
And each year it came back, magical and sparkly, as long as I was willing to make the effort to share and give honestly of myself.
Some years I find it hard to give.
I find it hard to step outside of the troubles in my life to look beyond me.
And on those particular years what I have learned is that is the time I need to dig deeper. To reach into the depths of pain or disillusion or illness or fear because it is when it is the hardest to give of myself …
…is always the time when I truly, honestly find Christmas glowing the warmest in my heart.