Life doesn’t get any more predictable as we age. If anything, you never know what new ache or pain will develop. And although the last 11 days have been difficult ones, I am thankful to enjoy another Christmas season, a season of hope in the midst of the uncertainty and incivility of this world.
Today, I will begin a third round of antibiotics, in the hope of healing my incision. I haven’t been able to go shopping but one day, and that took some pain medication to accomplish. But, if you use that one day to gauge my joy of shopping for grandchildren and great-grandchildren, you would be wrong!
I have always been a “super-shopper” at Christmas! I didn’t have memorable Christmases as a child, so every year I was determined to ensure my children had everything on their lists, no matter the costs.
I started this pattern because my 23-year-old sister died on December 19, 1972, six days before Christmas, leaving four children, ages one (he turned 2 on December 24), three, four (she turned 5 on December 28), and six. We buried my sister on December 22, trying not to have her children equate Christmas with loss.
When people learned that a young mother had died at Christmas, they brought so many toys and gifts to her house. The children were distracted from the grief that nearly overwhelmed the adults in the house. I agreed to become their “new Mommy” the say she passed, and I knew that I would sacrifice the rest of my life to helping them be happy and as well-adjusted as possible.
Then, a time came when my first marriage ended and I had to leave the children with my mother, to find work to get us out of poverty. I felt such guilt at not being with them every day. So when Christmas came, Mama would send me their Christmas lists, and I would buy every item on them. I would ship them home in big boxes by Greyhound bus (no one-day shipping with Amazon, then!).
Mama would go and pick up tons of boxes and put them under the tree. On Christmas Day, the children would open the boxes and find all that they had asked “Santa” to bring them. Some years ago, after my oldest daughter was an adult, she informed me that when they visited other children’s houses and saw their gifts, they thought that I was the “real” Santa Claus!
I continued to buy gifts this way throughout their teen years and young adulthood. I was in debt every year from January to September. The moment that stopped this pattern was the year I bought so many gifts for my newest grandchild that she started to cry, tired of opening them! That was eye-opening for me.
This year, I sent a text to my four children and told them that I had no money for gifts for grandchildren or great-grandchildren, with our move back to Georgia. I wasn’t going into debt at my age to buy Christmas for, between Douglas and me, 8 children, 18 grandchildren (15 of which are mine), and nine great-grandchildren (all of which are mine).
The shopping I did the other day was for the two youngest great-grandchildren because their parents plan to bring them to visit us this week and can’t afford to buy gifts for their children, one not quite one-year-old and one who’s soon to be two years old. Christmas is for children, so I bought clothes and books, and Douglas bought stuffed animals. We didn’t spend even $100.
I will admit that I miss the adrenaline rush of buying, but I don’t miss the bills. Even more is the fact that I have lived long enough to understand that in all things, moderation is best. I will try to remember this in regards to sweets!
I am thankful to be healed enough that I can drive again and that we live close enough to join in the fun of watching the children of all ages squeal in delight on unwrapping their gifts. We will eat a meal together and thank God for the greatest gift ever received, the gift of a Savior, Jesus Christ the Lord. Let bands of angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King!”
Be safe! Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, ans a Prosperous and Healthy New Year to All!