Sunday, December 21, 2014

Not So Jolly

For many, Christmas holds many wonderful memories of a childhood of toys and joy and the pleasures of the season. For others, like myself, memories of Christmas can be painful and full of disillusionment and times of abandonment. 

I was the fifth of nine children; a big Catholic family - the middle child. I was the least favored child - I could scream louder than my siblings; I was always the target of my mischievous older brother (remember Sid in Toy Story?) because I would come between him and my younger siblings to protect them even knowing I would lose the fight. But he was Mom's favorite boy and she would always believe him over me. When he hit me and I screamed, my mother would turn around and slap me for screaming. Remember, I could scream loud and it annoyed her.

The presents under the Christmas tree always held out hope for a big payoff on the big day. All of us would wake up real early to see what Santa left us. I remember a new bike would be there for "Sid" and other terrific gifts for certain special boys and girls. Lots of joy all around. Even though my gifts were never as wonderful as those my siblings received, I didn't notice but I was happy with my inferior gifts of cheap dolls, and on one occasion, a Ouija Board. My dolls wouldn't last much past the new year once 'Sid' got ahold of them and either tore their heads off or drew mustaches on them with a pen. 

One year all of us had a sad Christmas. Our dad had a heart attack a week earlier and was still in the hospital. That year my parents were having some financial hardships and somehow that affected Santa's generosity. Church members from St. Emydius chipped in and dropped off a big box of old toys they needed to get rid of to make room for the new ones Santa was bringing their little ones. It was a very sad offering - rather than bringing joy, it caused a lot of tears all around.

On that sad Christmas morning, not knowing if our daddy would make it out alive, the brat down the street came over excitedly to show us all the toys Santa had brought her. She had new skates, a new Barbie with all the accessories, and beautiful new clothes. I had always doubted the existence of Santa, despite my parents' constant reassurance of his existence, but seeing that the little girl who earned a big coal and ashes in her stocking made out like a bandit, that was the final straw -- Jackie, there is no Santa Claus. 

That spelled the end to my looking forward to Christmas - I was 10-years-old. My siblings went on believing in Santa and I would argue with them that there is no Santa Claus and that would irritate my mom even more.

A few years ago, one of my sister's (the favored one) and I attended the funeral of an old family friend. We gathered at their family's home afterwards. I began asking Mary Ann, the family mom and my mother's former best friend (my mom had already died), if the deceased knew Jesus. She seemed offended by the question, saying that he was not religious. I dropped the subject. As we were preparing to leave, Mary Ann said she had a real funny story to share.

She recalled how my mom would do all her Christmas wrapping over at her house so that none of us would peek into the bags. One time when mom was all finished with the wrapping of what Mary Ann said were fabulous toys, my mom noticed there was nothing there for her middle child. She recalled that it was Christmas Eve and all the stores were closed. She said mom ran out to the local pharmacy and grabbed something from the toys aisle that was already totally depleted. She came back with something junky, wrapped it nice and pretty and put on the tag "to Jackie, from Santa." Mary Ann chuckled and laughed as she told the story, thinking it was the funniest thing she'd ever seen. It cut me like a knife. 

My mom, no doubt, had confided in her friend all the frustration she had gone through with my becoming a Bible-believing Christian. My mom had told me, "I'm going to die a Catholic" and "I'll never become whatever the hell you are." She was right - she died in the good graces of Rome.

So if you are one like me that isn't filled with the Christmas spirit -- don't worry about it. It is just an invention of the Roman Catholic Church anyway and they don't like us.

Have a merry!! 

"One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks. For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s." - Rom 14:5-8

“Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’ He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me." - Matt 10:34-38

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