My mother’s birthday is Friday. She’d be 59 this year. I was thinking about her earlier today, sharing this story with a friend & colleague…& I thought maybe you needed it, too.
I grew up very poor, often in foster care or homes of family members. But I have always loved Christmas, despite the yeats there were no gifts. I’ve always loved the sense of family, the decorations, the food, the stories, going to church, but especially the tree. Even when there were no gifts, there was the tree. The magical plastic tree that calmed my mom, and silenced fights. The beautiful sparkling lights that twinkled like stars. I loved laying under the tree and staring up through its branches and pretending I was in a magical firefly or fairy forest where nothing bad happened. See, this is how a survivor child thinks.
Anyway, I remember one year when I was living with my mom, maybe I was 7 or 8, we were poor. Especially poor. On my birthday. I didn’t expect gifts, but I think it hurt my mom not to have the money to make a cake. Anyway, my mom woke up at midnight on my birthday and pulled me to the living room. Where she had set up the Christmas tree just for me. To make me happy for my birthday. In August. She laid under the tree with me and we slept there that night. It’s one of my best memories of my mother. Despite how crazy the neighbors would think it was. Despite how untraditional it was. It was a magical memory.
You don’t have to buy someone’s love or respect, just invest time in the person they are becoming. I try to remind myself of this as I have my own kids now. I’m not perfect, but I’m present & that’s more important.