I originally posted this story on December 10, 2008. It's my intention to share it every year as it's an important part of my childhood.
I believe that Christmas is full of magic. Some of it comes from the things people do and some of it comes from angels, miracles, God, etc.
My magic Christmas was full of both kinds of magic.
My mom and I struggled when I was a child. She was a single parent until I was 10. She was in dental school full time, working part time, we lived on student loans and her meager income. Lots of assistance from our church family. But not always an abundance of food. No extras for parties or presents or brand new clothes. Living in a safe neighborhood but not a great neighborhood.
So Christmas was never a big deal. I wanted it to be. But there weren't traditions that we followed. We didn't have much family around so that wasn't an option. I remember traveling to spend a Christmas with my birth father's family one year. That would have been when I was 4 or 5. I have seen the pictures of the holidays with my grandparents in their home before they moved away (we lived in Lexington and they moved to Elizabethtown).
So mom and I were sometimes on our own for Christmas. We sometimes went to wherever the family was. And one year, we went to visit a family friend. A husband and wife with 3 boys of their own. The oldest was a year or so older than me and the middle son was a year or so younger than me. The youngest was a baby at the time.
They had a nice house. A tri-level. The boys had oodles of cool things to play with. It was through this family that I learned of Doctor Who and He-Man and Star Wars (Jeff thanks them for this). Their Mom was warm and kind and smiling eyes. And gave amazing, wrap you up and make everything else disappear hugs. Dad was a scientific type and had a wicked little sense of humor that fantastically embarrassed his children. Not having a dad of my own at this point, I was absolutely in awe of this man.
So we make the drive (they lived in Illinois, I think, so it was a long haul) with plans to spend several days with these friends. I don't remember most of the visit. I do remember Christmas Eve and Christmas morning.
I was used to being the kid who didn't have what everyone else had. I was used to masking my jealousy, my desires. I was used to protecting myself and my mom from my disappointment and hurt. So I was prepared for that.
The first part of the memory is Christmas Eve. We kids were sent off to bed after the live tree had been put up. Just the tree, bare. No lights, no decorations. The 3 of us (not including the baby) shared a room and spent a lot of time giggling and snorting and laughing and talking and getting told to hush and go to sleep, being threatened with a lack of Santa... you know the drill. I didn't believe in Santa anymore but kept my mouth shut for the sake of the younger of the 2 boys.
As we goof off, we are watching out the window from time to time. It was a cold, clear, bright night. And there was a very bright star right outside the window. The adults told us it was the North Star, the same Star that the shepherds and Kings followed to find the stable... we goof off some more and look out the window... the star has moved to the other side of the window. From the right side to the left side. We holler for the adults... and get the "time passes, the earth rotates, blah, blah, blah" answer. So we keep talking and telling stories and look up again... IT MOVED BACK. Major freakout, adults don't believe us, mini-chaos ensues. The adults brush it off and tell us to get to sleep, they shut the blinds.
It's the last I remember from that night. Sleep must have followed soon after. Or we ended up separated, who knows.
Then the morning comes. The oldest son is awake and excited and jumping around, running up and down the hallway, eager for everyone to wake so we can go downstairs and see the presents. No one had been downstairs yet (their family tradition was that the family goes down together).
Remember... this is a tri-level home. So you come down from the bedrooms, into the living room, turn the corner to head down to the den... the kitchen overlooks it... we scramble into the kitchen to look over into the den...
I had never seen anything so magnificent in my life. I still haven't. The tree was decorated and lit with tiny white lights. There was gold paper and decorations everywhere. There were stockings overflowing on the mantle of the fireplace. The presents... the pile at the bottom of the tree spilled out onto the surrounding floor and spread all the way down the length of the fireplace.
I got very caught up in the moment. No one could see that sight and not get caught up in the magic. Overnight, the room went from a plain old den to a Christmas Wonderland. It was amazing.
Reality hit soon though. No matter how exciting it is to see a huge pile of presents... the disappointment of knowing they aren't YOUR presents does eventually sink in. So while the 2 boys went racing down the steps so they could start dividing out who got what present, I hung back and put on my mask to cover the disappointment. To steel myself for the watching of the boys opening their piles while I probably opened 1 or 2 gifts.
I came down the stairs with my mom.
And there was a pile for me. A large pile. More than 1 or 2 presents.
My mom had tears in her eyes... she didn't even know how much this family had done for us. There were envelopes in that tree... to this day, I don't know what all was in them but my assumption is gift certificates and cash for my mom.
And I sat down and slowly began to open my gifts. So beautifully wrapped, with gold, glowing bows. I wanted the morning to last forever. I wanted the magic to stay with me forever. The boys tore through their openings, ripping through paper, tossing aside ribbons.
It was my magic Christmas.
I don't remember most of what I got that year. I believe it was mostly clothing and practical things. But I was given a beautiful doll. Not a baby doll. But a blond haired doll with eyes that opened and closed and she wore a gorgeous brown velvet Victorian style dress with a matching hat and little black velvet shoes and tiny little white lace pantaloons.
I never named her but I did keep her.
We will decorate our tree very soon. And I will bring my doll down from her shelf in my bedroom. And I will remember that most magical of Christmases... when I learned about compassion and humanity and felt included and loved in a way I hadn't ever expected or anticipated. And I will continue to work to teach my daughter and my son that same lesson. To this day, I work to pay forward the kindnesses that were done for me and my mom. Especially at Christmastime.
Because every child, every person deserves a Magic Christmas!