I was poor as a kid. It wasn’t a big deal to me growing up (mom always found ways to teach us to just be more creative and less materialistic.) but it was a fact of life you couldn’t miss. Other kids wore shoes all year long. We had “School shoes” and went barefoot most of the summers. Coats for Winter were a big deal. I often fussed over my sister’s clothes more than they did because they were gonna be my clothes once they grew out of them.
As kids we knew the value of imagination.
A tree with an old tire tied to it was endless fun. A ball and a garage roof made for an excellent 3 hours entertainment. (If you have never rolled a ball on and off a garage roof you have not lived.)
If you’ve never climbed a tree, skinned up your knees, or ridden a bike to get candy at the corner store, you have missed out (Big Time).
For a poor kid, the best moments in life came at Christmastime. Santa made magic. I remember everything.
Mom would threaten us with our lives if we stole Candy-canes off the tree, it was like a battle of careful theft planning. (Of course we still stole them….DUH! NO normal kid could ever hold off on free candy!) It was all about the strategy. Joey D and Shell got caught way more than me. I’m totally bragging here, but it also just happens to be true.
Step one: Identify the Canes that are on the Window-facing side of the living room. What mom can’t see won’t be discovered missing right away. (An easy 2-3 canes are generally obtained this way)
Step two: Wait and lie on the floor watching television. Innocent little you.
Step three: The absolute minute mom leaves the room you move a few inches closer to the tree with your pillow. (If she goes to the bathroom immediately go to Step four!) repeat Step three until you are under the tree.
Step Four: Casually reach up, snag a Cane and place it in your jeans pocket.
Step Five: Don’t get cocky and attempt a second cane. (The real secret of my success)
At Christmas everything was magical . We had decorations just for Christmas. Mom had us help and every year the tree was more awesome. That’s because every year a new project from school or something mom helped us make went on it. We had felt Christmas trees, snowflakes made of plastic beads, and reindeer made of pipe-cleaners and plastic canvas. We got to choose what ornaments we put out ourselves. Everybody got a turn.
They played the best programs on tv too! Snoopy and Charlie Brown, Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer and mom’s favorite George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life.
There were Christmas lights and Maple Snow. There were special secret shopping expeditions and threats of murder if anyone peeked while we wrapped their gifts.
There were Christmas Carols and Gingerbread cookies cooking in the kitchen.
For a poor kid Christmas was the most wealthy time of every year. We were rich for three months every single year. It helped that my birthday was in January, it meant I could stretch out the feeling just a few weeks more every year.
For me, Christmas wasn’t about presents. I can barely remember a single toy, even though I know I got tons. What I remember is knowing a sense of quiet peace and wonder. The sound outside muffled and strangely reverent. I respected Christmas and Jesus, because I decided he was the reason I got all these amazing magical things each year.
I thought he must be bigger than the sun because he made Santa, Magic, Christmas trees and beauty happen every single year.
I fell in love with Christmas because it loved me. I wasn’t poor at Christmastime. I was small and joyful. I was seen. God saw me.
He gave me Christmas.
Now, as an adult I love Christmas even more. I savor the silent evenings when the world is muffled by snow, and the sky is dark but clear. When lights are twinkling and Candy-cane plotting is being made. I love to decorate and share moments with people. I love to fill them with cocoa and laughter. I love Christmas.
It lets me show people I love them, no money required.