The musings of some suburban mom, on life, motherhood, faith, and whatever else happens to cross my mind.
27 October 2014
***This post was inspired by The 13th Gift by Joanne Huist Smith, a memoir about how random acts of kindness transformed her family's bereavement and grief during the holidays. Join From Left to Write on October 28th as we discuss The 13th Gift. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.***There is so much pressure surrounding the holidays. So much pressure to get just the right gift, and present it in just the right way, and make just the right meal and set just the right table. I'm guilty of it on occasion, I'll admit it; getting caught up in the outward appearance angle of Christmas. Wanting to make sure that the kids are appropriately "wowed" when they come barreling down the stairs in the morning. Wanting to make each Christmas better than the last. Wanting to make special memories. I've never had to try to make Christmas feel normal for my kids just a couple of short months after the sudden and unexpected death of their father. I do, however, remember distinctly one Christmas when I wanted nothing more than to pull the covers over my head and not come out till mid-January. It was the year my marriage very nearly fell apart, right around Thanksgiving. Going to family dinners and big festive holiday parties was miserable; who wants to listen to a tale of marital woe and dry tears when everyone else is merry and bright? Our kids were little; too little to understand what was going on and why Mommy and Daddy were sad all the time, and still little enough to need the magic and the wonder of Santa Claus. My sister would call and ask if I had gotten one of the boys this toy or that toy; she had seen it on sale and just picked it up because she thought they'd love it. I finally had to ask her to stop shopping so I could have something left to give my kids. If only I could make myself go out and get in the damned holiday mood! It was a tense and awkward holiday and as much as Captain America and I tried to act as if nothing was wrong, it was painfully obvious to everyone around us, that something was indeed, terribly wrong. The holidays came and went, the kids got gifts they loved, and the storm in our marriage passed in time. But I'll never forget how much pressure I felt to make everything wonderful, when all I wanted to do was hide from the world and even from my own family.
I don't know if I can really say I enjoyed reading this book, because it is, in some ways, a very sad story. It brought tears to my eyes, and it made me want to hug the whole family, really hard. But I guess I'd have to say I did enjoy it, in a sense. In spite of its sadness, though, it is a hopeful story. There ARE kind people out there, who WILL go out of their way to ease someone else's pain, and do for a hurting person what they can't do for themselves yet. It's hopeful because although Joanne really didn't want anything to do with the anonymous gifts at the outset, they reached her anyway. It gave me hope that God does indeed send angels when we need them. In a funny coincidence, I live very near to where this story took place, and every street name, every town name, every store and school mentioned was like chatting with a neighbor. In a way, it was comforting to know that such a hopeful story happened right here in my neck of the woods. Memories aren't just made when the table looks like a magazine spread and the gifts are piled high. Memories are made from being with the people you love, and memories are made even when the holiday spirit seems to have skipped your house, and you don't want to play. Treasure those moments anyway, because you're still making memories. Just ask Joanne's family.