There were 8 children in my family growing up. We were raised Catholic faith based family on blue-collar, hard-earned money. My father was a self-taught musician. He didn’t read music and was deaf in one ear. His was one of the most talented musicians by my count and many others. He used this God given gift to make extra income. I don’t think he considered it ‘work’ though. Many times, it allowed him and mom, a few hours a month ‘out’. Mom was nothing short of successful in her job also. She worked from, well before sun up to well into the late night, managing our family. She was the cook, the housekeeper, the treasurer, the Dr. and the nurse, the shopper, etc etc. But the most important role she held, was a loving mom with arms always open and ears always available. I had a full appreciation of that, way later in life than I am proud to admit. We lived in a 4 bedroom home, that took up most of the yard, but we didn’t notice. We had a roof over our head, soft beds to sleep in, clean clothes, lunch and supplies needed for public school and activities. We had home-cooked hot meals with the entire family every single night! When pizza was the ‘in’ thing, Dad would have nothing to do with it, therefore, we didn’t either. We felt disadvantaged, as surely any kid would. Sometimes we needed mom’s attention a bit longer or Dad’s lap more often. We were taught, some learned quicker than others, to share most everything, even time with Mom and Dad.
At Christmas time, the infamous Toy catalogs from Sears and JCPenney would arrive in the mailbox. We never really knew the arrival date. Presumably it was many weeks before it actually ‘appeared’ on the living room table. I am certain, that was intentional. With 8 sets of eyes carefully and meticulously slowly turning each page to not miss one item, I can only imagine the immediate overwhelming clashing of voices that would be heard as the ‘lists’ began. The Lists would be very carefully scripted, as we knew that Santa could only fulfill a limited number of each child’s request. After all, there were 8 of us. If we asked for too much, how could he possibly get the bulging bag down the chimney? The fear that none of us would get anything, was too big of a risk to take!
So, for the few weeks left before the big day, and knowing the allowed time needed for the letter to arrive at the workshop, we carefully crafted the final draft. Even then, the #1 ‘top’ item we wished for, would be rearranged, crossed-out and revised, one last time.
On Christmas eve, we patiently awaited my Grandparents arrival. They visited other cousin’s homes before finally making it to our home, their last stop of the night. They brought a gift for each of us, that we could open that night! The first gift of the season! The youngest sibling opened first, and that made me very happy. I only had to wait for ONE, before my turn. Sometimes they brought a ham or turkey for my parents. My parents never complained, of course. But as a child, I remember how I found myself wondering, Dad would have probably preferred a new set of guitar strings and mom a nice nightgown. Little did I know.
I share my memories as a child growing up in our family, because of how it made me feel and how it helps to keep me grounded. We had it all! I never knew I was poor, as defined by the world’s standards. Yes, we were aware we had limits, limits on what we could ‘ask’ for, meal options, clothing options, vacation options and many more as you can just imagine. The reason was of course due to finances, but more importantly it was rooted from, simply, we just didn’t need anything else. There was so much love for us kids we never had the time to need anything else.
As the season is near, what would it take for you to keep it simple and put limits in place to only fulfill needs. Needs of your family, your community, your world, whether those are tangible or spiritual. How far would the impact of your initiative and example span?
Wishing you a Joyous and Blessed Christmas and Holiday season.