January 11, 2016

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Christmas Lessons

The Simple Truths that Come with the Holiday Season

By Natalie Gochnour

January 11, 2016

One of my most memorable Christmases involved a Mickey Mouse watch. I wanted one badly, but when I woke up early on Christmas morning to take a peek at the gifts, I noticed a shiny Mickey Mouse watch placed by my sister’s stocking instead of mine. I returned to my room teary and disappointed.

Disappointment is sometimes how the holidays roll. We create expectations and hopes that sometimes fall short. This can be a particularly troubling experience when it involves comparison with a sibling. Whether as an adult or a child, family dynamics can make or break holiday cheer.

My sense of loss was compounded because my sister didn’t really even want the Disney timepiece. I think she liked it, but it wasn’t on her list. I thought my mother must have deemed me too young for such an expensive and serious present. I was going to have to wait another year or two. This made the situation hurt even more.

I know a thing or two about sibling relationships. I’m the youngest of 11 children, seven of them brothers. There’s a stereotype that the youngest child is spoiled. That may be true with a smaller family, but it’s not true with large families like mine. My brothers used to put me in a suitcase and carry me around the house!

A suitcase would have been just fine by me that morning. I retreated to a private spot and tried to tame my emotions. Thoughts flooded through my mind. I loved my sister; she loved me. Perhaps she would share the watch. Christmas wasn’t about presents anyway, I reasoned. I loved the holiday decorations. A fire crackled in the family room. Ours was a happy home. My dear mother loved me; maybe she just forgot. I could carry on.

After reconciling my thoughts, I returned to the family room with several of my siblings. I didn’t tell anyone about my disappointment. I hid my feelings and forced a smile. I thanked my mom for the other gifts (I can’t remember a single one) and shared my love for others in the family.

After about 45 minutes of emptying our stockings, exchanging gifts, eating chocolate orange sticks and other treats, I discovered one more small gift for me under the tree. It was a small box with a bow. The tag said “From Santa” in my mother’s handwriting. It did not even occur to me that it would be my hoped-for watch.

When I opened it up and saw Mickey’s little white gloves and oversized yellow shoes, my heart jumped out of my chest. It was perfect! The gift touched me in a way that is hard to explain as an adult after so many years. It was such a small thing, but that Christmas, at that time in my life, it meant the world to me. It was my favorite childhood Christmas.

Looking back after all these years, my Mickey Mouse watch Christmas still reminds me of simple truths we should all remember during the holiday season. The first is not to covet and compare—especially with family members. Each of us has our own path. We will always find lesser and always find greater. Be strong in who you are. Believe in yourself.

The second truth is equally important. Be patient in all aspects of life. Submit yourself to the careful process of time. Learn from it. Let patience do her “perfect work.” Forbearance really does make for a better life. 

And finally, never stop believing in yourself and those who love you. My angel mother knew me. She knew I was old enough for that watch. She treated it like the treasure it was to me—she wrapped it and placed it under the tree.

May all of us enjoy a wonderful holiday season filled with belief in ourselves, patience, and loving relationships.

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