Gratitude and Christmas

My friends and I are at that age where we’re too old to be kids, and not mature enough to call ourselves adults. While noting the difference between Christmastime as a child and Christmastime now, in this weird pseudo-adult phase, a friend told me, “You know you’re an adult when what you want for Christmas can’t be bought or put under the tree.”

It’s funny to think that 10, 15 years ago, the Christmas season seemed so long to me. Wrapping paper and candy cane borders covered the corkboards at school. Construction paper Christmas trees and cardboard cutout snowmen lined the hallways. My evening car rides to swim team were spent watching the festively illuminated houses pass my frosty window. Christmas carols floated away with the foggy breaths of my girl scout troop as we made our way through town. The warm aroma of baking sugar cookies drifted through the house as we decorated our little cookie-cutter reindeer with sugar crystals and too much icing. Glitter would inevitably end up everywhere inside my house during the holiday parties, when we restless children would abandon the “make your own ornament” table, run amuck, and play games. (Oh, my poor and brave mother…) My sister and I tugged on much-hated tights to wear under our fancy dresses, picked out special to wear to Christmas mass. And, of course, anticipation seemed to stretch each magical minute of the season to twice its usual length, filled with an omnipresent hope and excitement that I’d find that one special thing under the tree.

This year, I felt the season completely passed me by. Maybe it was the lack of snow in a region that’s usually blanketed by this time. Maybe it was focusing so aggressively on schoolwork and finals that kept me from enjoying the little things of the season. More likely, it was the time spent grieving national, local, and personal tragedies. This year, there was little excitement, celebrating, or cheer. Instead, there seems to be a lot of blinking back tears, holding heads in our hands, and asking, “Why?”

When I go to bed tonight, I won’t be straining to hear for reindeer hooves on the roof; or Santa’s hands rustling the tree branches, heavily laden with ornaments created from Decembers past. My stomach won’t be full of butterflies as I toss, turn, and sigh at the clock as it ticks closer to dawn. My feet will hit the floor this Christmas morning at a much later hour than they did more than half-a-lifetime ago. What I truly want won’t be found under the tree; it’ll be found around it.

I want the same things now that I–and everyone else–want the rest of the year: love, friendship, acceptance, and happiness. Maybe, because of the recent shakings and trials of life, my need for these things is a bit stronger. This year, I’ll be fortunate to spend half of the day with my biological family, and the other half with my EMS family. Each of them serves as a source of joy, laughter, frustration, love, and strength. Through smiles and tears, they are there. Nothing has made that more evident than these past few weeks. My gratitude for such a blessing could never really be put into words.

I’m grateful for what I have. And I’m grateful that my losses weren’t worse.

Finally, my heart, thoughts, and prayers go out to anyone fighting through a tough loss this holiday season–especially the families, victims, and first responders of Hurricane Sandy, the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, and the Webster fire department shooting. May you find some comfort soon.


  1. Thanks MK. Thanks for putting into words with such clarity, and honesty exactly how I (and I know I’m not alone) felt this Christmas. Wishing you and your family – whether biological, adopted or EMS peace and joy this season and the new year.

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