Friday, December 13, 2013

How the Grinch stole Christmas...(and we got it back)

I am overwhelmed with gratitude. Gratitude isn’t something you would probably normally feel after getting your debit card number stolen and having your checking account wiped out. I will admit it’s been a bit of a struggle to get back on track financially after having a baby. Not having a paycheck and no disability insurance for 7 months will do that to you. I know I’m not the best at managing money but paying bills, daycare costs and a mortgage are struggles enough without someone swiping your debit card number and having a Dillard’s shopping spree. Honestly if the tab had been for gas, groceries, even Babies R’ Us I might have been more understanding. Cleaning someone out so you can feed your shopping addiction is just criminal especially this time of year when money is already tight. With our funds in limbo we knew getting a Christmas tree was not going to be an option anymore. How can you afford what’s not a necessity when you should be buying groceries?

I was devastated. Not for me…but for Charlotte.

I know Charlotte is only 8 months old now but I wanted a Christmas tree for her. She doesn’t have memories right now and won’t for awhile so it’s up to me to be the keeper or her memories. It’s up to me, I believe, to thread together the story of her childhood and her early days; to remember for both of us. Even if I couldn’t put a damn thing under the tree I wanted to have that for her. To see her face light up when we turned it on and to decorate it and hang her baby’s first Christmas ornament on there. As long as I could remember I’ve had a tree. Even when my parents got divorced and life got shitty my mother made sure we still had a tree. It was a glimmering beacon of hope to me in my childhood. A symbol that everything would be alright. If I couldn’t afford a tree for Charlotte, how would everything be alright?

So I put it out there to the universe. I am not one to ask for help. In fact I hate asking for help. When Charlotte was born and I had offers from friends to come and watch her while I napped or to cook me dinner, I would most often politely decline. I let a few close friends in but even then it was hard to say yes. My parents were never the type to ask for help and as a result we never got any. No one brought my mom casseroles over when we were born or watched us for free while my parents could have a date night. I never saw help being given so I never thought to ask for it myself. I maintained if I could get myself into a situation then I needed to get myself out. Yet after all the struggles in these past few months when I realized we couldn’t have a tree I hit the end of my rope. I needed help and I asked.

And I received. Wow did I ever receive.

Help. Help in the form of texts, phone calls, messages and more than 40 offers from friends for a Christmas tree or money for a Christmas tree or just positive energy and advice. It brought tears to my eyes knowing what a great community of friends I had out there. For the first time in my life I said yes. Yes to help, yes to friends being friends and yes to the kindness. It’s not like I want to be seen as a charity case I just finally got the balls to admit I couldn’t do it all. Our friend Amie showed up on our doorstep with groceries and dinner all I had to do was say the word. Another friend gave me a generous loan to help us through the holidays. I have never felt so loved or humble in all my life. I asked my own aunt for a loan and she turned me down. Thank goodness for good friends right?

Do you remember the end of How the Grinch stole Christmas? Where the grinch is on top of the hill after stealing all the presents and he looks down on the town expecting them to be sad? Instead all the towns’ people are gathered around this glowing beacon of light in the center of the town and they are singing and smiling. Then the grinch realizes, “Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store…maybe Christmas means just a little bit more.” The townspeople had everything stolen for them but they had each other and that’s all they really needed. I don’t need gifts under my tree…to me it isn’t as important what’s under there as it is who is standing around it. That’s all I wanted was that symbol of hope for me…for my family.

Of all the offers my friend Ann was the sneaky ninja who sent me a message, set a date, came over and took me and Charlotte out on a girls afternoon to shop for a tree. Her only stipulation was that it had to smell like pine. She graciously bought our tree and helped me set it up in our living room. She even carried it in the house for me! I let her put the star on top since she couldn’t stay to help decorate. I asked her how on earth I could repay her and she just responded that all I had to do was do something kind for someone else. If you’ve never met Ann she’s just like that. One of the most genuinely kind people I have ever met. If she hasn’t done anything kind for you it’s just because you haven’t gotten to know her yet…give her time and she will. It was amazing.

So this year when I look at the Christmas tree in our living room, I know I won’t be looking at MY tree…I’ll be looking at everyone’s tree. Every person out there who showed me what the spirit and true meaning of Christmas really is. To help someone who maybe never even helped you out just because you care. To help someone because you feel it’s the right thing to do. To help someone because you know what it would mean to you.

Someday I’ll show Charlotte this photo of her sitting in front of our tree at her first Christmas. I will tell her the story about how hard our lives seemed at the time and what it meant to us to have that tree for her. I will let Charlotte know that even if one person stole from us, 45 others gave back without even giving a second thought. To her she might only see a tree in the picture but when I look back on this year I’ll remember the hope that I feel now.

“Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store
maybe Christmas means just a little bit more…”

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