The Season of Hope

Those Christmas lights… light up the street

Down where the sea and city meet

May all your troubles soon be gone

Oh, Christmas lights, keep shinin’ on”

— Coldplay

She’d loved the rust-red sweater the previous year.

The v-neck wool sweater I’d surprised Mom with on Christmas morning — the same one I’d caught her eyeing in an American Eagle store while shopping a couple weeks earlier — she’d actually pranced around in all of Christmas morning, a perfect combination (she thought) with her rust and green plaid flannel pajama pants. I’d really outdone my fifteen-year-old self, which was why the next year, I had to do even better.

For those who know me, that’s just how I am. If I run 10 miles one day, I have to run 10.1 the next (through the years, such a trend has brought me up to an ability to run 23 miles at a shot). And it was how I was that Christmas.

Mom didn’t have a lot of money. In fact, she barely had enough money to get by caring for my sisters and me on her own (Dad’s child support checks were few and far between at the time). And she needed a new coat. My two sisters agreed with me — a great idea —  and with pooling the babysitting and part-time job funds between me and my middle sister, we could get something decent.

But… Then I thought about it some more. If we’re going to get her a coat, a winter coat, something that in Wisconsin, you tend to use just a bit, shouldn’t it be a really nice coat? She’s going to wear it all the time, both as an accessory, and to keep warm, so shouldn’t it be top quality?

The Columbia jacket my sisters and I purchased for her (at the time, this was “top quality” to us) cost a few months worth of our job funds, funds that otherwise went to all of the extra stuff we had to pay for ourselves — clothes, movies, nights out with friends. I didn’t mind a bit.  We bought the olive and navy blue jacket the day after Thanksgiving, and nearly every one of the next five  days, I took out and tried it on myself, imagining mom modeling it, cozy in that soft, fuzzy lining. What a great surprise.

Only…. Well, what if we could make it an even bigger surprise? What if we got mom a few extra gifts under the tree, so much so that she wouldn’t expect anything else?

Another couple months of funds later, my sisters and I had a full line-up of presents — ornaments, movies, even matching gloves and a scarf (of course, she wouldn’t know what they “matched” to when she opened them).

Christmas Eve, I took the perfectly wrapped box — silver, glittery wrapping paper with red ribbon — out to the trunk of my car, and placed it in there under a few blankets (not like Mom ever went in there, but you never know).

Christmas morning, Mom opened the rest of her gifts and thanked us profusely. “I told you guys, you don’t need to get me gifts, you need to buy your own stuff.”

Yeah right, this is way more fun.

I waited until about 10:30am, after our typical Christmas morning breakfast of cinnamon rolls, went out to my car, got the present, and laid it on the doorstep.

“Mom, we think there’s something at the door for you.”

“What?”

“At the door, there might be something from Santa.”

She raised her eyebrows at her three daughters, Cheshire cat grins across our faces.

Her eyes stayed that way as she brought the sparkly package inside and opened it up….

“You guys………!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

I think she was actually more mad at us for the purchase than excited, but she quickly got over it in favor of enjoying her new outerwear, even taking a ride out to my aunt’s house to show it off.

My college friends used to call me Mrs. Clause — maybe it was my yearly tradition of getting them together in our dorm kitchen to make cookies? The decorations that covered my dorm room?

My sister, after living with me for a year, usually describes my decorating this time of year as “Christmas threw up in her house.” And I’ve been known to stay up until midnight on Halloween night to listen to Christmas music — my self-imposed line in the sand is no Christmas music until Halloween is over, but once that clock strikes midnight….

Why?

Because there’s just something about this holiday that gets me. No matter how much money you spend — and believe me, the point of the story above is not the price of the jacket — it’s a time to focus on bringing joy to those around you.

I was feeling pretty down that “year of the coat,” trying to get over a huge fall-out, searching for answers to questions I never thought I’d even have to ask. Yet rather than discourage me from enjoying the season, it only made me more determined to take advantage of the holiday for all it’s worth, to keep believing in what I could do for others.

There’s a reason it’s called the “season of hope.”

What’s your favorite thing about Christmas? What gift are you most looking forward to giving?

Happy Holidays to you all, and please enjoy what is now my new favorite (non-traditional) Christmas song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z1rYmzQ8C9Q

PS: Looking for a last-minute inspirational gift? And Then it Rained: Lessons for Life is now in paperback! Get it here: http://www.amazon.com/Then-Rained-Lessons-Life/dp/1466334266/ref=sr_1_cc_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1324573502&sr=1-1-catcorr

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