Christmas is my favorite time of the year. It always has been. I love the living room with the soft twinkle of multicolored lights. I love the tree and the tinsel that adorns everything in the house. Even when I was a teenager, I blew my tiny paycheck from babysitting after school on dollar store decorations to add to the festivities.
When my first son was born, the true meaning of Christmas hit me like a ton of bricks. It wasn’t that I hadn’t always known that Christmas was about the birth of Jesus, it was just that until I had a baby boy, the idea of sacrificing your child to save the world just wasn’t fathomable. My first year as a mother, the sight of the baby in a manger brought me to tears all season long.
Of course with all the joys of Christmas come many expectations. My parents did this amazing job of making Christmas big and wonderful and magical all the years I can remember and I have always tried to carry that on. It wasn’t that hard when I had two little ones, but my little ones are big, and their wish-lists no longer include Barbie. And with seven kids, just a few gifts under the tree is quite the set back. And lately, we’ve had a few unlucky things strike us. Our ace in the hole didn’t quite pan out the way it always has before, and honestly this is going to be our smallest Christmas ever, but I was feeling a little proud of myself. Even though I haven’t filled their wish lists, or even come close, I have managed not to panic. I haven’t complained to my friends, cried to my husband, or opened any charge accounts I know I can’t pay, I have just constantly reminded myself that we are blessed again and again.
Then the other day I was at work, sitting in a classroom full of teenagers when my phone went off. I can’t really sit around texting from work, but I always check just to make sure its not some emergency, and when I read my husband’s words, I couldn’t believe it. He wrote to me “man in CT just busted into an elementary school and started shooting kids, K – 4th grade.” All I could reply was “WTF?” (Pardon my French, okay, so that’s not really French, but sometimes there are no other words.)
I spent that day wondering how many of those mothers had been worried about what they had to put under the tree. Then worse, I wondered how many of those mothers had already wrapped the perfect gift only to find there is no child to open it with screams of joy and smiles bursting from their precious little faces. I can’t imagine how those families will get through the coming weeks.
Whenever I turn on the TV they are talking about this tragedy. Everyone wants to know why it happened, but I don’t know if we could ever fully understand the darkness that steals a soul and leads them to take countless lives down with them. All I know is that no one should ever fear sending their child to school. Its the one place where we should always know our children are safe.
This morning Kailynn was supposed to dress like Cindy Lou-Who for Grinch day in PreK. We got her all dolled up, and she had her two dollars for the Santa shop in her pocket. She was so excited about the day ahead of her and then she threw up all over the house just as we headed for the door. We still had to load the car and get her brothers to school and she cried all the way there because it was her first time to miss school. Bless her heart, even though she struggles to come home with a happy face in her little folder, all she wants to do is laugh and learn and play in that little building every day.
As I watched the tears running down her face from the rear view mirror, I couldn’t help but wonder if any of those children had almost stayed home sick, or if there was a child who managed to have a stomach virus on the one day their school was changed forever, and I took my little princess home, and snuggled with her in my bed, and said to myself, it’s not about what’s going to be under that tree, because these are the most precious gifts anyone has ever given to me. It’s not about the boxes, or tags, or the pretty gift bags, it’s about family and love because that’s the most important thing we have. Of course the kids are still hoping for new bicycles, I guess we’ll see what happens!