I have decided that Christmas is for Children. There is a feverish kind of anticipation and my two youngest are making preparations for Christmas. On very limited budgets they are out there seeking that right gift. I watch them as they pour there hearts into the gifts they have chosen and embellish them. Wrapping and worrying have they bought enough. I remind them that it is the thought that counts. I need to do that because the constant narrative that surrounds them is bigger better, shiny and brash. They look at our neighbors new swimming pool and comment boy they must be rich. I tell them that material things don’t make you rich
This year Chistmas is not a burden financially, enough money to buy gifts and food and a little left. Nothing extravagant and I realise that I am blessed. I listen to the news about people lining up for food parcels, bigger, longer lines. Reflection of a harshness that has crept into our society. At times I hanker for a simpler life but I remember the hard times. I remember one Christmas going to the supermarket and filling my trolley with groceries,mainly basics, certainly no alcohol. It had been a hard year with illness and unemployment and I waltzed up to the checkout and signed a check knowing that the bank would never honour that. I remember the amount two hundred and twenty dollars and change. You see we had no money left, I can’t remember why and the only alternative was a foodbank and I remembered going once before,
I remembered the sense of shame as I was ushered into the little office and the questioning of why we had no money or food.I remember the small box of food and particularly the small containers of UHT milk. Here we were in the land of milk and honey and the only milk we could get was tiny little capsules of long life milk that my kids would not drink because they tasted funny. I think I sold something to buy some milk so I wrote the chequ and justified by saying this was a multinational company and that I would pay them back it was just a loan.
I remember the sheer relief when the cheque was accepted at the check out and I hurried to the car with my huge trolley of groceries, this is some 15 years ago now and two hundred dollars of groceries was a big amount back then. I kept hoping for a miracle but sure enough the bank bounced the check and I got a letter demanding payment. Long story short I fronted and rang the supermarket and the Woman was nice and said should we represent the cheque and I told her the truth. The funny thing was the warmth and human kindness of her words that day were far more christian than the words I got at the foodbank run by a church known for their acts of charity. I was treated like a criminal at the foodbank made to show id and cross referenced to make sure I was not asking for food at any other foodbanks.
The woman simply said that she understood, could I pay the amount off? We agreed a payment plan. Twenty dollars a week and she deferred it for a couple of weeks to get us past the start of school. I paid the amount and I remember the relief as I paid the last installment.
Christmas is for children. I try to protect my children form the harshness of life and most of the time I succeed, we have had a few lean weeks this year as we coped with unexpected expenses and one particular week i couldn’t give my children their allowance, I told them and they were really great about it. They are great kids who often don’t ask for things they need as they worry about money. They are however quite privileged they have never gone hungry or been cold or in pain because of a lack of money and whilst I have breath in my body they never will. If I had to beg in the streets they would get what they need.
Christmas is for children. My Christmas this year as was the last is a solo affair in that my bed is empty apart from myself and there are some days when that is more poignant than others but I will rise early on Christmas day ans we will exchange presents and have pancakes for breakfast. I may even go to church I certainly will on Christmas Eve. I will laugh and smile and enjoy what I can because Christmas is for children. I will remember those who through death are alone at Christmas and say a prayer for them, not much comfort in that I know but I try through my every day life to bring comfort and compassion where I can. Sometimes unfortunately I am the perpetrator of that pain.
The thing is life is not fair or perfect sometimes life just sucks. Christmas will be a mix of pain and pleasure for me this year. A familiar place for me and unfortunately many others. A few words I wrote are on this link.
With Love for all those who feel that pain