When I was seven years old and my brother was eight we were in and out of foster care often and that year was no different. That year my birth mother had just overcome her addiction for a brief time and settled into an apartment, after being homeless. She got us back just before Christmas. That Christmas my brother Shawn and I were so excited because we had a home (little apartment) with our mom, we had food and clothes on our backs. We had so much to celebrate and be thankful for. We wanted to decorate for Christmas but mom couldn’t afford it at the time and our biological father was incarcerated leaving the financial support to the government, outsiders, and a single mom who held a job at a local waffle house.
The night of Christmas Eve my brother and I sat together on a little balcony from the second-floor apartment talking together about Santa, his reindeer, and elves. We wondered how in the world this jolly bearded friend in a red suit would find us in this new place without a chimney or tree or lights. We were sad but there is something about being little and believing in the magic of Christmas that invaded our moment of doubt and created a sense of hopeful wonder. We must have asked our mother 10,000 questions that night before bed. She must have known what was around the corner because she was not sad, but we sure didn’t have a clue. We left out milk but didn’t have cookies. We sat the little cup of milk next to our Christmas wish list on the old scratched up, brown table with a broken chair.
My brother and I shared a bed and that night just before we fell asleep he wrapped his arms around me and said he loved me. He said no matter what, we have each other for Christmas and we have momma now too. I was content with that as we fell asleep.
The next day we woke up and rubbed our eyes. We both slid out of our bed and walked past mommas room. She was still asleep. We tiptoed into what looked like a winter wonderland. As we stood at the end of the hallway I could see the lights. I couldn’t believe it! A REAL Christmas tree was set up with colorful lights and a beautiful angel was on top! I still feel the warmth and excitement that I felt that day just thinking about it! We both screamed with excitement! That tree was so beautiful that Shawn and I thought it would be a good idea to drag it down the hallway to show our mom. We began to drag it but we didn’t think about a few things first! The hallway was curved and I don’t know if you know this but Christmas trees don’t bend well around a tight corner sooo… It got stuck at the bend and we also got pine needles everywhere! Mom woke up to our panic and asked what we were doing. “We wanted to show you our tree momma”! We may not have been the brightest but that tree sure was. 😂. Momma helped us put it back and we begged her to let us open the gifts. She took forever to make her morning cup of coffee and finally it was time. I opened the first gift and it was a beautiful outfit with fun bright patterns! Oh, how amazing it was to have something new! Shawn got an outfit too and it was blue and handsome! The next gift was the most beautiful quilt for our bed! ❤️. Momma handed us the last two presents and we opened them with excitement. I got a Walkman! A real Walkman tape player! I was so excited to listen to my first cassette tape, Reba! My final gift is one that has inspired me throughout the years. I got my first film camera.
When I was seven years old a person that I didn’t know gave me a camera. Years later I became a photographer. Photography has been a means for me to grieve loss, process pain, and celebrate with others. I am so thankful for that camera! I am so thankful for those gifts. Momma told us that we were placed on an angel tree and nice people gave us gifts just in case Santa couldn’t find us. They also gave us the magic of the tree and lights! It was all so very magical!
I would love to encourage you this holiday season, if you have an opportunity to bless a child or family, please remember that a little goes a long way. Children who have lived in poverty or have been homeless often times really are so so very grateful for the new clothing, shoes, and blankets. They really are excited to receive just one or two toys! If you can, grab an angel form at a local store and and make this Christmas special for them. Look for children in your communities to bless. I thought by sharing my story maybe I could encourage you to help so many feel the warmth of Christmas during their hard seasons!
If this has happened for you, now is your time to pay it forward or share the impact moments like this have made in your life to maybe encourage someone else to extend a helping hand.