I didn’t get–as in comprehend, grasp, understand–Christmas until I was 28 years old. That year, the holidays found me eight months pregnant without benefit of spouse, and for nearly every day of those eight months, I had been “morning” sick. I was working full time, going to law school five nights a week, and fainting regularly.
I had not planned to become a single mom, but no form of birth control–even abstinence–works 100 percent of the time (just ask the Virgin Mary). With the help of a very good counselor, I’d chosen my path and was trudging along as best I could.
To say I was terrified is an understatement. I was catatonic with anxiety, what-ifs, and if only’s. I had never changed a diaper. Who was I to take on responsibility for a child, particularly when my nearest relative was hundreds of miles away, and my lifestyle–nose mostly to the grindstone–hadn’t resulted in much of a support circle?
I bounced from “I can’t DO this!” to, “Keep one end fed, the other end dry. How hard can that be?” to, “This will never work,” to “Fer cripes sakes, Grace, women have been having babies for zillions of years. Deal.”
And then along came Christmas, an exceedingly family-oriented time of year. I worked for a company that closed the last week of the year, so I had that one week to put the crib together, lay in baby supplies, and shop for those teeny, tiny clothes that nobody wears for very long. I have never felt so alone as I did shopping for onesies over Christmas break, eight months along, with no ringer on my finger.
But then I realized, that was the Christmas story: A woman expecting unexpectedly, feeling unprepared, unable to tell old Caesar Augustus that the dead of winter was a lousy time to saddle up the donkey and deal with some bleeping census. No room at the inn, no friends with a spare couch, and nothing going as planned.
Christmas isn’t shopping expeditions completed, perfectly decorated cookies, and a bow on every present. It’s the spirit of love that cannot be daunted by darkness, cold, fear, or misery. Unto ME a child was on the way, and if love counted for anything, the baby and I would manage.
Nearly thirty years on, the managing is still a work in progress, but I no longer feel like Christmas is for everybody but me. I feel as if Christmas is every day, because every day, love matters, love wins, and love is what will get us through. Keep the cookies, I’ll take the love.
Was there a standout Christmas for you? One that was particularly tough or sweet? To one commenter, I’ll send a $100 gift card, though I wish I could send one to the whole world.