It’s a week until Christmas- but you have to hear this story:
You know sometimes, when you go into something new- you set the bar for yourself higher than you think you can reach. You imagine- hope intact, that this will become everything you want it to be. Very, very few times are you not disappointed, (although that’s a frame of mind, right?) Very few times does the goal you want come without a price, or unimagined hardship.
When I left Josh, I saw all my dreams of a ‘family christmas’ shattered. Who would I wake up with on Christmas day and cry with- as for ONCE, in my own home- my child was opening her presents. Who would I kiss at midnight on Christmas eve- thanking everything up above that I had found what I ultimately wanted? There were cookies to be baked, and parties- and I wanted to give his family the most amazing, impressionable gifts- I wanted to be such a standard, of everything I had imagined to this point, that when everything crashed down- I struggled with what to do.
There was a closet full of gifts- some for him, some for her. I didn’t wrap them- I left them to the side. The other gifts- things that had been bought- I wrapped in front of old Christmas movies several nights in a row. Suddenly, when I was out- I found the most amazing things. Gifts- people had asked for- in clearance bins- on sale, marked down- to almost nothing. I looked at people around me- because there was no way I’d be able to pick up a gift for everyone of my friends.. How?
I have, 32 gifts under my Christmas tree. I know, right? That was the beginning.
I posted a while back that I had wanted to give to others instead of buying expensive gifts. I managed to do both this year.
I decided about 2 weeks ago, that I wasn’t going to stop hurting. That what had happened was going to have a dramatic effect on me- and I would have to eventually deal with it. I decided to try my best to focus when I could- on other things. I told Ava, we’d sponsor a family for Christmas. I figured- the kid has toys coming out of her ears- just celebrating a birthday- and I’m incredibly blessed, so why not. So we did. We sponsored a family. But then? Someone heard that we sponsored a family and gave us two boxes full of gifts. So- I brought some to my apartment manager and asked her to give as she wished, (which was cool because she doesn’t like me, “Miss Maintenance Emergency,” J) But I was over there, bringing gifts and she knew exactly who to give them to. So… two families- maybe more.
Then, I posted that I had extra gifts- was a single mom, the things were gently used, but I knew someone could love them. I said I’ve even wrap. Word got out that I was helping, and suddenly I had another load of children’s stuff at my house plus a tree. Someone thought we should have a tree for helping others. And baby things. There was a young girl on craigslist who was pregnant, scared and alone. (I had been there.) Her child is going to sit in Ava’s old carseat, stroller, toys, bedding, clothing- you name it. She came and picked it up in a very old car, and she hugged me. I knew I’d never see the baby- but I knew it mattered. Three.
Then there was Kaeyla’s gifts, which I had no idea what to do with. I put an ad out and a single mom came to get them. FOUR.
Someone emailed me and said that she loved what I was doing and wanted to help me. I said- We don’t need anything. She said, ‘Let’s trade toys!” I said… that’s possibly the coolest thing ever. So- I went over there last night with all intention of trading toys… until I saw her home.
It was empty.
You think I’m kidding, right? There was a couch, a television, some stairs, a table and in the children’s rooms? There were hardly any toys. I started looking at the home. EVERYTHING WAS MADE BY HAND. Curtains were whip-stitched, tablecloths were handsewn. The children? Hugged me and my daughter as soon as I walked in the door. Cookies were on the stove. This family- was happy. The children slept on mattresses and the mom made the beds with a blanket daily. (Ava has over 12 blankets folded in the top of her closet.) TWELVE. When she moved from room to room? She had to bring a lamp with her, because they only had a lamp upstairs and one downstairs. When she asked for my opinion of what she should wear to a party because she couldn’t match anything- it wasn’t for lack of matching… it was for lack of clothing. FIVE SHIRTS hung in her closet. There was no jewelry box. There was no pictures hanging on the wall. But it was clean, and tidy, and she used rope and construction paper and decorated her whole home for Christmas. And there she was- with a box of decorations she wanted me to take and pass off to other families. UNBELIEVABLE.
You can imagine how humbled I was as I brought in a box of toys and we traded. And she explained that she felt so blessed.
Screw that. I have an entire closet full of Ann Taylor. I have jewelry like you wouldn’t believe. I don’t know what possessed me- But I went home, searched the things I knew I’d never pull out immediately, and put together four outfits for her. A dressy outfit, with a beautiful necklace a friend had made me. A casual outfit with the cutest bracelet I picked up at a flea market. And two business outfits. I wrapped everything. And then remembered… I have an extra lamp- literally sitting in the floor of my closet! I grabbed my lamp- and bulbs, and toys, and Christmas cards- anything I could think of. I brought it back. I even grabbed my extra bath and body works lotions and creams. (I have so much>)
We teared up together sitting in front of the tree. For the first time in a longtime- I didn’t know her, but I knew- she needed to be a princess for a day.
I suddenly stopped caring about my electric bill that was overdue, and the fact that rent in it’s entirey needs to come out of my next paycheck- and that by some miracle I have a cell phone bill to pay soon. I suddenly stopped caring about me. FIVE.
I have two good friends at work now. (After a year of working,) I finally have met the coolest women. We all have kids within the same age of each other, (two of us are single moms,) and one mom, (K,) traded me Ava’s old wardrobe for a Pampered Chef Kit- with a new pan. (Which is exactly- if you remember the disaster in the kitchen 3 weekends ago- I needed!) She’s also the mom that invited me to come bring the things I sew to her home and sell at a recent party. And she invited me to J. I don’t know how I did it- but I bought Ava’s Christmas dresses a size too big. (4t instead of 3t.) And? Now I know why. Because J’s daughter is a perfect 4t. And Ava has two. SIX.
I’ve met cool people lately, and T- especially. He owns his own snowplowing and snowmobile retailer, and there’s Rose, who is homebound- with a horrible disability and unable to shovel. So this dude, says he’ll start taking care of her driveway, and I already have gifts for her kiddos …. SEVEN.
So this is me telling you- that I failed in one aspect. I didn’t get to the nursing homes, or the hospitals. I started helping everyone I came into contact with. There are no holes in my home- I’m not missing anything important. In fact? I’m glad to have extra space in my closets back. Ava has uncovered other toys she didn’t know she had- and we made a difference.
It reminds me of a quote that remains so true: It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.
He called me a superhero once, maybe he saw me in a way I didn’t then. It took him leaving for me to find that even the smallest touch to someone else- can have a seven-fold impact.
Oh…. And I’m not done. J