This year, my daughter asked Santa for gifts for her stuffed rabbit, Fufu (I know this because Mexicans have been more clever than us about finding out what kids ask for: they write him a letter and stick it on the Christmas tree). The request? A “playground” for the rabbit, and a basket of toy carrots, also for him.
This isn’t meant to be a “look how generous and selfless my daughter is” humblebrag destined for the “That Child Didn’t Say That” Facebook group — she’s surely confident that she’ll get her own presents as well — but it does kind of break my heart that Christmas in a pandemic year means asking for things that let her fantasize about being able to enjoy what she used to enjoy, the memories of what it was like to easily strike up games with whatever kids happened to be at the park at the time fading like dreams.
I’ve always been sensitive about gifts, especially for children: the first time my heart truly broke was when I realized, at the age of 5, that there were kids that didn’t get presents for Christmas or birthdays because their parents didn’t have the money to buy them. “They don’t even have crayons and coloring books?” I remember asking my mother as we sat in the car in the Target parking lot. “They might not even know what crayons are,” she replied. I was floored.
In retrospect, I can’t imagine kids, at least on this side of the world, not knowing what crayons are, but still. Nothing struck me as sadder, and I had to actively push the idea of these other children out of my head in order to enjoy my own abundant Christmases that my parents worked so hard to provide. It seemed that every year, my mom would sit my sister and me down to explain that we wouldn’t be getting “that many” gifts that year, but it never seemed to me that there were any less than the previous year. As a mother myself now, I can appreciate how and why she worried about it so much.
This is going to be my first Christmas as the only grown-up in my home. This means that it will also be my first Christmas without any gifts under the tree for me on Christmas morning. It would be a lie to say that I’m not sad about this at all, but, having given myself the gift of a life more in line with the one I want to live more than makes up for it, as do so many other gifts I’ve received this year: of deep friendship, of love and connection, of continuing health and employment when so many have lost both, of unexpected generosity and good fortune at every turn.
It’s been a rough year for us all. Let’s not forget to be gentle and generous with one another. This year has taken us all for a ride through a creepy and depressing “funhouse,” and many of us haven’t survived it. But it’s Christmas anyway, and being able to let our higher selves shine through even at the roughest times, even if it’s in fits and starts, is what makes me love humans the most.