Saturday, December 25, 2010

Is it really the THOUGHT that counts?

Here's what I remember about the first Christmas I learned what LOVE really meant.  I can't remember exactly how old I was, maybe 7 or 8, and per usual I was at my grandma's house for Christmas Eve.  Since my parents separated when I was 5, spending Christmas Eve with him at my grandma's house and Christmas at home with my mom was the norm.

We were all opening gifts.  Aunts, Uncles, grandma, dad, and us kids were sitting around the tree.  The kids were fists of fury; paper flying everywhere.  I noticed that my cousin had gotten this singing teddy bear that I thought was just SO cool from my grandma and I remember thinking, "WOW" she must really love him very much.  It was no doubt true, but I put the thought aside for a moment and opened a gift from my dad.  It was a Rainbow Bright doll.  Unfortunately for my dad, I wasn't really into Rainbow Bright at the time.  I immediately thought, "he doesn't love me very much if he doesn't even know what I like."

Poor, poor divorced parents.  The ones without custody are like onlookers on the other side of the glass.  They know their children, but they sometimes miss the details just for lack of being with their kids everyday.  It must be a heartbreaking thing, to only see your child on weekends and holidays.  I cannot imagine what that must be like.  Even though I joke that I would gladly take a day off from my children, I'm not sure I could stitch together enough pieces of me to make myself a whole person with the holes they would leave without their laughter, crazy dancing on the carpet, splashing in the tub, and yes the chaos of wrestling, shoving, and doing it themselves without any help from mommy.

So I do what all small children do when they are completely disappointed, I throw myself full tilt into a melt down; tears, storming out of the room and the icing on the cake of all tantrums I will not explain what has me so upset.  So I'm sitting in my grandmother's basement trying to piece together the connective strings I have learned in my short time on Earth.  Love equals things.  Better things equal more love.  So less things or lesser quality things must equal less love, right?  So that means that my dad doesn't love me nearly as much as my grandma loves my cousin because she gave him a way cool singing teddy bear and my dad gives me a Rainbow Bright doll that I didn't even want.

I want to cry at my childhood innocence and stupidity.  Blame our consumer culture if you want, but these are the sad lessons we as children learn through the actions of the adults in our lives.  My dad comes down and asks me what is wrong and I don't remember what I said.  Though I was saddened by his "lack of love" for me, I still didn't want to hurt his feelings by telling him the way I really felt.  Eventually, I confess that I'm not a big Rainbow Bright fan.  He seems a bit hurt, but instead of being angry with me he assures me I have other presents to unwrap and I might find something else I like.

After a little while of talking, he convinces me to go back upstairs and finish opening my presents. One of the very next presents I unwrap is Rainbow Bright's horse.  It had a big star on its forehead, which I thought was pretty cool at the time.  Now I'm happy.  Now she has a pet and this makes her better than what she was alone.  So I assure my dad that I'm happy with his presents.  I'll never know if he believed me or not or how badly I hurt his feelings by throwing a fit and almost ruining what I didn't know then would be one of too few holidays in our painfully short time together on this Earth.  But I learned something, despite my age; it didn't matter so much what he had gotten me.  He loved me and had wanted to make me happy with a gift and I used that gift to measure something for which there is no Earthly measure - the love a parent has for their child.

Despite my regret during this poorly timed growing experience, I'm eternally grateful that I learned that love can't be measured by anything, least of all a gift you can buy at the store.  Some people still walk this Earth, trying to measure it this way.  I think it's because it makes them uncomfortable - the enormity and the responsibility of love.  We try to break it down into smaller bite sizes pieces we can analyze and hold, and study with a microscope.  It makes us feel that much safer to put it into our pockets then to know it spans the entirety of every breath we take, every moment our heart beats, and the limitless sky we sleep beneath.  So on this Christmas day, when I myself have become the parent, I think of my Dad and I try to breathe without him.  I pray that he can hear my heart beat, because he helped design its rhythm.  I will sleep under the sky- the majestic, infinite sky that he watches me from and I know, without hesitation, just how much he loved me.

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