I'm sitting in my living room, drinking coffee (rather heavily laced with Irish cream) out of a mug she put in my Christmas stocking some fifteen years ago at least and thinking about Christmas. Thinking about my mom. I have gifts yet to buy, and twelve hours from now the kids will be in bed, the Christmas pageant at our church long over. I have Christmas baking to do and a lot of tidying and cleaning to finish up. Many things are decidedly last minute this year, a procrastinator's affliction that has rarely affected my mother.
She gets her shit together in good time. Even last year, which, when you think about it, is amazing. All the driving and errand-running and preparations she did. And we had no idea, no clue what was happening, what was about to happen.
Christmas was odd, with her upstairs in inexplicable agony, us downstairs opening gifts and giving each other knowing glances, casting our eyes up the stairs, wondering, concerned. She was absent and later told me she had little memory of that day, but we had her prior thoughtfulness with us downstairs. Warm socks. Chocolate. Coffee beans. Her tokens of consideration that have long been my favourite part of Christmas morning: my stocking, now a gift bag as my stocking now resides alongside my husband's and our children's in our own home.
She is so good at choosing gifts. I feel very much that I have failed to develop that talent at selecting small things that declare to the recipient "I thought of you" as every gift should. It is one thing to give a gift requested, a gift that fills a known need, but quite another to give a gift that fills a need unrealized, a need or desire the recipient did not know existed until the moment the gift is received and it shines a light on the need or desire it so instantly fills.
To show someone that you think of them when you are away from them. That you carry them, carry their needs and their wants and their wishes in your heart always. That through your day you are thinking of them, considering them, wishing them well, wishing joy for them.
That is a gift.
It has me thinking about the greater Christmas celebrations in which our family participates. It's a challenge, as people who celebrate both popular culture Christmas, with Santa Claus and a tree and magic reindeer, as well as religious Christmas, with Jesus and Mary and Joseph and angels and shepherds and stars. How to explain to our children how one relates to the other? What, exactly, can they possibly have to do with one another?
And then I thought of my mother.
It's about the gift you didn't expect to receive, that you didn't know you needed, the gift you didn't think you'd want. An infant saviour? While under an oppressive and foreign regime? What use is that?
It's the gift you didn't think you wanted.