I was the baby of three children. In my mind there was my dad’s favorite—my sister, my mom’s favorite—my brother, and the extra child—me. It seemed my parents loved me in a perfunctory way. Of course they loved me; I was their child.
But there was no call for anyone in our family to reach out, hug another or say the words. And for me to tell them I loved them? Well, first of all, it didn’t occur to me and if it had, I wouldn’t have risked the rejection.
My parents weren’t bad people. Somehow though, they took their parents’ failings and rationalized them into sound child-raising principles. When as a little girl, my tongue would get the best of me by offering some idea, or worse, my feelings, a towering figure condemned, “Who asked you?!”
At Christmas though, someone did. My parents asked me what I wanted. They actually wanted to know. There was no right or wrong answer to get in trouble over. They even wanted a list! Then, miracle or miracles, they tried their best to give me what I wanted.
Inside each gift I found proof that my parents loved me and cared about my heart’s desires. For that one day, I was allowed to be excited, have opinions, and even play. On Christmas day, children came first. We were a family. We kids were the only ones who fought, and it was over toys.
For that one day, my parents’ attention focused on us. I was allowed to hug my mother and show appreciation.
On Christmas day we ate a predictable meal, usually ham, my favorite. We weren’t forced to sit at the table for hours “until you finish everything on your plate.”
My dad couldn’t work on Christmas. He stayed home all day.
Spoken or unspoken, my parents obviously decided they wouldn’t fight. No arguments, no anger. Maybe they had their moments, unnoticed by a child, but the peace in our home didn’t feel pretend. It felt real. It was the peace of Christmas, if only for that one day.