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It really is the little things that make Christmas special. With the ever increasing commercialism of the holiday season we tend to forget that- until necessity forces us to remember.

Caring for my father has left us all financially strapped. I worried about Christmas for months. More specifically, I was worried that my daughter, who is Autistic, wouldn’t understand the lack of holiday cheer and the absence of multiple presents under the tree.

That thought bothered me so much that I decided not to put a tree up. To be fair, that wasn’t the only deciding factor; my father is having increasing difficulty getting around and I envisioned a decorated tree with cherished ornaments older than my father crashing down as he reached for something to stabilize himself.

But mostly, I was hoping my daughter wouldn’t notice if Christmas just passed us by quietly.

That thought is almost laughable when you consider that Christmas music starts playing on the radio as everyone carves their Thanksgiving turkey and commercials bombard us with chubby red-clad jolly old men flashing beautifully wrapped presents.

I’d earlier purchased a STUFFIE by mail that I knew she wanted. That was hidden, still in the box, in plain sight. That was her one big gift.

The closer it got to Christmas, the more I could see her anxiety and confusion mount. I had no choice. I had to tell her that Santa didn’t exist. If I didn’t, she’d go on believing that the jolly ol’ man existed and for some reason, I wasn’t doing what I should to ensure he’d stop here. Was she a bad girl?

That thought tore me up. However, so did the thought of taking that one time of year that was magical away from her.

“Heather, Mommy has to tell you something.” She was lying in her bed pretending to be asleep for the last few hours, occasionally sneaking peaks at the lavishly decorated lawn catty-corner from us.

She squeezed her eyes shut as I continued.

“Heather…There is no Santa Claus.”

Her eyes opened wide and she looked at me.

“It’s not you. You haven’t been naughty, and you’re not being punished. Mommy and Daddy have always bought you presents and stuck them under the tree. There is no Santa Claus.”

Silence.

“But, Mommy has no money this year to buy presents. I’m so sorry. I’ll make it up to you soon. Do you understand?”

She looked at me with her big wide eyes and blinked a few times, squishing her nose like she does when she’s thinking, and then nodded her head once. She even got excited and sat up to tell me she wanted ‘that new big bike so she wouldn’t fall’.There was also relief at the mention that it wasn’t anything she had done.

And now I was relieved. For the first time in about a week, she smiled. I sat on the edge of the bed and I hugged her as hard as she would allow me to, and I kissed her puffy cheeks and squeezed her some more; all as my heart ached.

I got up to make her a snack and a few moments later I returned to her room, but instead of carrying the snack I held the box that was hidden in plain sight.

“Heather, I have something for you.”

{Gasp}”What is it?!” She sat up again in the bed.

“Mommy did get you something. It’s not Christmas, but I want you to have it now. You’ve been such a good girl.”

She reached for the box and gingerly opened the flaps to reveal the vibrant red of a stuffed dragon named “Blaze” that was jammed into a box 1/3 its size. I watched her eyes grow bigger as she tugged until all of the Stuffie finally succumbed to her pulls and slid out from the confines of the cardboard.

Another large gasp and then a wave of unbridled excitement; It’s just what she wanted. She hugged the large Stuffie to her body and rocked it side to side. I watched holding back tears.

I didn’t want the moment to end. It was so good to see her smiling again. I had one more gift to give her. Earlier that month, I’d taken another of her favorite toys-a stuffed Toothless from How to Train Your Dragon- and I photographed it. Then, I opened it in PowerPoint and added some items to personalize it.

I saved it as a picture and then uploaded it online to be put on a mug. Her favorite beverage is hot tea.

It wasn’t much…

When it came delivered to my door, I immediately opened it and was pleasantly surprised. It turned out beautifully. My intent was to add packets of hot chocolate and microwave popcorn…maybe I could find a cheap movie to add and make it a bigger gift.

It didn’t matter now. I walked out of her room and returned a moment later with the Styrofoam that held my tiny hope of redemption.

“Heather, I have one more gift to give you. I hope you like it.”

She took the package and turned it over a couple of times before finally pulling the two pieces of white foam apart. I watched quietly as she slowly pulled the cup out and examined it; turning it round and round.

She looked bewildered. There was her toy sitting on the side of a cup. How did it get there?

She squinted and turned her head to the side and pursed her lips…and then she suddenly giggled.

God, how I love that giggle.

“Mom! It’s Toothless– On my cup!” She shouted. “Look! Look!” She pointed.

“I know, I know.” I said. “I took a picture and then had the people at the store put it on this cup. Do you like it?

“Is it my cup? This is my cup?” She asked over and over.

“Yes…Yes. It’s all yours!”

“I want tea. Can you make me tea Mommy?”

“Absolutely.”

I reached over as if to grab the cup, but instead I hugged her again. She didn’t notice. She was too busy looking at her mug.

The simplest thing…love_Heather

Merry Christmas everyone.

~SLD~

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