This past Christmas, our son Nate posted a lovely tribute to us on Facebook. He shared some of his Christmas memories as a child growing up in a very large family with not much money.
I wanted to share it with you to offer encouragement to the parent who feels like they can’t possibly be doing anything right; to the parent who is struggling financially; to the parent who wonders if their kids will ever realize how much you love them.
Keep doing right. Stay the course. Your kids are watching and observing, even when you don’t realize it!
From Nate: (Age: 39)
Christmas memories: “I’ve been reflecting the past few days on how my parents made Christmas special for us. Our grandparents lived hundreds of miles away and times were very tight when I was little, much tighter than I knew at the time, so Mom and Dad had to make Christmas special for us on their own for the most part.
I was so excited by Christmas as a kid I had very little idea that it was a time of extra financial pressure for them. Or how much Dad felt it and covered it up for our sake. I remember times when he gave us used toys or tools, at least for some of our gifts. I just thought he gave us those things because they were really cool. I had no idea that it was difficult for him to get into the spirit because he was struggling so hard, doing a humble business in the construction trades, doing work that didn’t excite him as a people person, all the while the pressure to feed a growing family weighing upon him.
I didn’t know, at least when I was very small, that winter time was already the toughest time for his business and that he worried so much about paying the bills, let alone having anything extra to make things special. I only knew he was away all day, he felt really cold when he came in the door, and was often really tired. But he still managed to be jolly.
‘Rassling’ in the living room with the boys, reading stories to the entire family virtually every evening, sometimes having to stand up and walk around the room as he read to keep from falling asleep in the middle of the story. I remember one night we all wanted him to read by candle light, so he did. One of my little sisters was sitting on his lap and thought it was great fun blowing out the candle, so he had to keep relighting it in the fireplace every few minutes, but he never visibly lost patience.
Knowing now what he and Mom dealt with it gives new perspective on their sacrifice. Knowing what a fight it was for them while being an idyllic time of wonder and excitement for us. It’s impressive that they were able to keep their focus enough that we could enjoy the simple delights.
Christmas time meant walking to our kind neighbors tree field and cutting a tree, decorating it together as a family, popcorn, hot chocolate and Christmas hymns from the record player. Waiting breathlessly for the packages from Gram and Gramp, Granny and Granddad, Auntie Sue, Auntie Diane, Uncle Keith. Gathering Christmas Eve to open one gift apiece, then Christmas Day reading the Christmas Story from the Bible, talking about the true meaning of the day, taking turns opening gifts, youngest to oldest. Christmas dinner, lots of Christmas hymns playing, singing along with the record player together.
I remember Dad staying up all night one Christmas Eve, putting together a kitchen set for my sister, back when they didn’t come as one piece plastic units. I stayed up way late ‘helping’. My brother Tim stayed up much later actually helping, Dad never went to bed. Thinking now about our simple Christmases there wasn’t a lot in it for him from a selfish perspective, but he sure gave us a lot, and made it possible for Mom to give so much also.
Christmas is different in many ways now, there’s nothing like being a kid, but for me, and I think all my brothers and sisters, Christmas is still a wonderful time with pretty similar traditions that have grown out of that experience, with a few twists and turns along the way. None of us feel like we’ve really had Christmas until we all celebrate together at Mom and Dad’s. There are more of us now and the gift exchange takes all day, but it’s still a blessed time and a testament to the sacrifices made by a young couple with a bunch of little kids.
They’re a bit older now, though both look and act younger than they are, and now they have a blast celebrating with their grandchildren. I could go on, but you get the point. So here’s to two of the greatest people I’ve ever met. Merry Christmas Mom and Dad thanks for everything you gave us and keep giving! Hope this is a fabulous Christmas for both of you. In the season where we remember God’s greatest Gift to the world I have a great human heritage of giving to reflect on as well. May I model some fraction of that to others.” ~ Nate