Christmas is a Balancing Act

by on September 20th, 2010
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We all have that Christmas memory from long ago – the one that changed our life, how we view the world. I was twelve the year I realized the true meaning of Christmas.

My Dad was in the Army and there were a lot of kids in our house. We weren’t well off, but my Mother was inventive and frugal too boot. Christmas morning was a flurry of activity, even though each of us got only one present, some jammies and a book. The year I turned twelve, 2 of my sisters got married and moved out. There were still 4 kids at home, but it seemed empty.

Soon after, we moved into a new house, in another new neighborhood. Christmas was coming and I was sooo excited. We had grown up overseas, with one TV channel. Our stateside home had cable, and I was in hog heaven. Sharing my newly found love for TV with 3 siblings and 2 parents was just too much for me. For Christmas, I had asked for nothing other than a small TV for my room. I talked of nothing else all summer and fall.

Although my Mom tried to hide it, I saw her bring in a box. Ah ha! Just the right size. I plotted and planned. I was a sneaky and nosy child. Several days later I “missed” the school bus. Since I left after Mom and Dad, I had to stay home for the day alone. I located Mom’s stash only to find that she had already wrapped the gifts. No problem. I could be as careful as anyone.

Slowly I slid the tape from the wrapping paper. I had to know if it was the TV I so desperately wanted. It took what seemed like forever, but I finally got one end of the box free. Imagine my shock and surprise when I read “20” Unicycle” on the box! What? How in the world had Mom gotten it this wrong?

It was still a few weeks until Christmas, and I had plenty of time to ponder. I held onto hope, thinking “maybe Mom just put my TV in a unicycle box”. Christmas morning I was full of nerves. I eagerly opened my gift and found…a unicycle. I acted grateful, and even tried it out for my audience. I may not have mentioned yet that I am not the most graceful person. In fact, I am the least graceful person I know.

But, I was the lucky one. I knew instinctively that my Mom bought the unicycle for two reasons. 1. She thought I spent too much time inside reading. And 2. She was doing the best she could with the resources available. She gave me time with my family instead of being holed away in my room alone. The unicycle was something that the whole family enjoyed.

After spending a few months attempting to balance on the darn thing, I managed to convince my younger brother to take it over. He rode it for years. It is only now, as a parent of a teenager, that I fully understand the gift I was given.

I learned a good lesson about balancing life and making the best of things. About having empathy for others who were simply trying to make the most of what they had to give. I gained an understanding that my parents’ actions were being done for me, not to me. Most of all, it taught me to be thankful that I had parents who tried their best to balance parenting and friendship.

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