As children the greatest thing ever is to get up on Christmas morning and run to the tree to see all the presents that Santa has left for us. We stop in the doorway and drink in every bit of Christmas morning before tiptoeing into the room. We’re mesmerized by the mountain of gifts and stockings full of trinkets and candy. We wonder how in the world Santa can deliver presents to all the children in the world in just one night. Surely, he MUST be magic. What other explanation can there be?
After the nanosecond of scanning the room for all the gifts Santa left we begin our marathon of ripping paper and opening boxes before moving on to the next gift. It doesn’t take long for us to tear through every present under that tree. When the opening of gifts is over we’re left with giant pile of crumpled paper, ribbons and bows. We sit there and look around at everything and think that it’s the best Christmas ever with all the presents we got. Our parents watch us open our gifts and seem just as surprised as we are by what’s under the tree. They seem content to just observe from the sidelines and don’t seem bothered by the fact that Santa didn’t leave them a pile of presents like he did for us.
When you are a child Christmas is centered around presents. It’s all about getting that newest toy that’s out. We make our lists and give it to our parents to tell Santa or we give it to Santa himself. Maybe we saw him at the mall or perhaps we mailed our list to him at the North Pole. Either way he got it and he knows what our little hearts long to see under that Christmas tree the morning of December 25.
As adults we grow away from Christmas presents and move more towards Christmas presence. The things that are important to us as we grow older can’t be bought in a store or ordered off the internet for expedited delivery. The things we want can’t be wrapped up in paper, ribbons and bows. The things we truly desire are not things at all. They can’t be held in our hands but are held in our hearts instead. What we want as adults is to have our family gathered around, healthy and happy. We want our children close, whether they’re 5 or 25. We want peace and harmony in the family as well as everywhere else. Yes, that means peace on earth, not just within our four walls. These are all things that can never be bought, not with all the money in the world.
This Christmas was the thinnest one financially that we have ever had in 29 years. For me, it was also the happiest. Truthfully, it was probably the happiest Christmas I’ve had since I was a child. This year I wasn’t stressed out from trying to fill the underneath of tree with a mountain of presents because I just didn’t have the money to do so. I told my kids and husband repeatedly not to buy me anything because my gift was that we were all together. And I meant it.
We did buy a few small things but the focus was on us being together instead trying to fill the space under the tree. Though there were very few gifts under the tree for our two adult children and us it didn’t matter to me…..not one bit. What did matter to me was that my family was all together. We were happy, healthy and we just enjoyed each other’s company. We had a wonderful Christmas dinner that my god parents and my daughter’s boyfriend’s mother joined us for. Nothing fancy, just a relaxed evening with plenty of joy and laughter. It was a welcome change from all the Christmases past.
I think this year was a turning point for me in many ways. I’ve learned so much this year that I wished I had learned sooner but everything comes in the time it’s supposed to. One of the most important things I learned is that no amount of presents you give to someone can ever take the place of your presence in their life. I can only remember a handful of presents I got for Christmas as a child. What I DO remember most is who was there….my mom & dad, my siblings and on some years, my grandparents. The memories of their presence is what I cherish the most, not the gifts that were wrapped up in shiny paper. The memory of being surrounded by my family is what I’ll carry inside me. No gift, even one wrapped in gold leaf paper, could ever be worth more to me.
So, as you prepare to ring in another new year make a promise to yourself and your family. Promise that this year (and every year after) that you will put more importance on presence and not presents. I am going to do just that. There’s no present I could EVER receive that would mean more than the presence of my family. The presence of my family IS the best present and it’s all the presents I’ll ever need.