It seems that each year someone reaches an imaginary switch and creates that one item, every person must have for Christmas. The year I was 11 years old, it was the Cabbage Patch Doll. I wanted one of those dolls so badly. To have a unique doll, that I could adopt and would be only mine. I bought into every commercial and reminded my parents regularly that it was the gift to get me. Christmas was a big deal at my house growing up, it was understood that something wanted so badly must show up under the tree. What my 11 year old brain did not understand was that the size of a parents heart and the size of a parents wallet do not always allow for all the wanted items to be under the tree Christmas morning. It was, to my knowledge, one of my first lessons in gracious disappointment. What I did not understand yet was that it would also be a lesson in gratitude and love.
Christmas morning at my house was spent with my father squeezing out every last moment of Christmas with what we refer to as “the great stall”. It is hard for a child to understand how many times a person can go to the bathroom, need to charge the camera or find something to do, before all the presents must be opened. It is a great tradition that I of course, now carry on with my children, I now understand how quickly it all goes and why you want to make it last, for even a brief few minutes. This Christmas morning was no exception and by the time I was to open presents I thought I would explode with all the anticipation. We open gifts one at a time, one person at a time and with my father playing Santa by designating which gift you open, at which time. Until the last ‘special gift” remained. The box seemed to be the right size, but felt rather light for the requested doll. I waited anxiously, thinking about what I would name her and where I would put her and telling my friends all about my newly acquired treasure. And then, although I thought it would never come, it was time. I opened the box and inside…a note. A note that told me where in our house to find my last present. I went searching, and opened my parents closet. There on the floor was a doll, with brown curly hair and a long white dress, brown eyes and round, pink cheeks. A doll my mother had made me.
My heart sunk, but I knew that the expectation was to be kind and accepting of my fate. I picked up the doll and turned to hug and thank my mom. I remember my dad, telling the story of the late nights that it took to create the doll. The painstaking way my mother had looked at pictures to recreate a Cabbage Patch doll for me. My disappointment must have shown through because I also recall my mom and dad saying they were sorry, but the dolls were in such high demand that the cost was too high for what they could do. They did not want to let me down, so they tried to give me a substitute that I could have on Christmas.
I held that doll for the rest of that morning, then took her upstairs and placed her with some of the other dolls I had on a chair. That doll watched, from a distance, as time passed, and I grew. When I was about 14 or 15, my dolls were packed away in boxes to make room for my growing up and new pursuits. Many Christmas’ past before I found out I was pregnant with a little girl. I wanted to fill her nursery with my dolls and other keepsakes from my past. My mom brought over the boxes to unpack. The moment I saw that doll, my eyes filled with tears. I did not even try to pretend it was pregnancy hormones. It was the emotion that my mom had long been due, from the first time I opened a box with that doll in it, it was gratitude. Gratitude for the love and care that went into making her and gratitude for a mom who wanted to show me that she had heard me. I wrapped my arms around my mom and thanked her, the way I should have done many years ago.
Lessons in gratitude and the love of my mother are timeless gifts, it inspires me as a mom to spend less time at Christmas in line getting that need to have item and more time teaching my own children the real lessons that count. Its not what you get or what you want, but the love that we get and we give to others that lasts and that is something no one can find in a line.