"The older kids used to have to wrap presents for the younger kids. And we had to wrap our presents, too."
I asked my friend about this practice. He said, "We had nine in our family. Our Mom had a procedure that, back in the day, they used for depression. She'd had seven kids in eleven years. Post partum I'm thinking, but the powers that be just treated her for severe depression. And that procedure...well, think "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest."
My friend paused, shook his head, then continued.
"I was a kid. When she left, she was my Mom. When she got back, she wasn't. They took my Mom away. And she never returned."
"So we did what we could. We made it nice for the younger kids. They always had Christmas. That was good." He looked away and paused. I could see his face become blank.
"But there was still a debt to pay about the holiday. For years-like three decades-I didn't get really excited. To be honest, I didn't feel anything at all. Another day in December. But I made really good Christmas' for my friends, my family, my nieces and nephews. I just "faked it until I made it" as they say, just acting my way through the holiday. If I had lousy memories of Christmas, at least I didn't contribute to that process for anybody else."
"Spent a lot of money. That didn't exactly add to the warmth of the festivities, you know? But that wasn't to bad. The bigger debt was the suffering I put myself through, the disappointment I held on to for all those years, the inability to forgive my Mom's depression and my Dad's resentment at having to do all of this himself for nine kids, and passing the responsibility on to us. He provided. He did that well. But he was angry. He didn't like Christmas. And who could blame him? But, like I said, he provided. He just wasn't exactly the Spirit of St. Nick."
"It took me years to get over that. I decided that this holiday wasn't about me or my history. It's about what I can do for everybody else. Today, I crack open the wallet a little, and I provide some presents. I've learned to really like it."
"But most importantly, I make sure that the season is felt through my voice and my presence. I love the people in my family, both my immediate and extended. I have a great wife that brings my spirit into the holiday. I am present, engaged, and focused on the happiness of others. And that gesture has made the holidays happy. It's given me a whole new perspective.'
"I hold no debt after Christmas. . Couple of bucks short, but it's all worth it now. I have grown to love this time of year."
"That old debt-the resentment, the angst, the anger, the disappointment over Christmas' past-have long been retired."