Christmas hasn't always been a happy time for me. I was bounced back and forth between my mom and my dad, alternating years so there was always someone I wasn't seeing during the holidays. And friends had parties or went caroling, but not me. Subsequent divorces led to further upheaval affecting family finances... even my living situation over the holidays.
One particular year saw me and my mother in what I think was an illegal apartment in a single-family home. One bedroom and a living room off a backdoor entrance. The kitchen was hardly more than a fridge and a sink. We literally were using an electric hot plate to make all of our meals.
I actually don't remember much about Christmas the year we were living there. It may have even been a year I traveled to spend the holidays at my dad's house. But one thing I do recall is that there wasn't room for a Christmas tree and there probably wasn't money for one, either. And it was also the first year there wouldn't be a tree at my mom's, which was so disappointing for a grade schooler.
So I took markers and oak tag paper and made a small life-size Christmas tree complete with decorations and a toy soldier just as tall, along with things like stockings, and taped them to the wall of the tiny living room that was also my mom's bedroom.
Speaking of my mom, she has saved that oak tag Christmas tree and the toy soldier all these years. Sometimes, if my family is around while she's decorating her tree, I'll see them in with the other decorations even though we've never put them up.
It's a good reminder for me that kids are generally resilient. When parents do screw up, kids don't immediately break. Back then, it made more sense to little me to try to create Christmas out of cardboard and Crayolas than to focus on what was missing. I sometimes see P. doing the same thing, albeit on a much lighter level since she's never had to deal with deprivation or divorce. And God help me, she never will, because I want every one of our Christmases to look like this:
How's your last minute Christmas prep going? I feel like I'm running at full throttle today!