When I was in 7th grade, I lived in Seguin,TX…a small town, on I-10 between San Antonio and Houston. It’s the city my grandparents moved to when I was in 5th grade, from San Marcos, and a place I spent two years of my life.
We were there to “regroup,” and stabilize. My mother, a single mom, was doing all she could to pull things back together and raise her children, which was something she had done inconsistently until then.
She had sacrificed and put herself through nursing school, and for the first time, had a steady job in a career that would last. But, despite the great opportunities that lay ahead, we were poor, living in low-income housing. I remember moving into those apartments in Seguin, with tiled floor and all bills paid.
You would have thought we had moved into a luxury condo, since it was the first place we had ever lived with central heat and air. I had my own room, and there were plenty of other kids like me, to play with. I guess, to a 7th grader, all was well. As they say, you don’t know what you’re missing if you’ve never had it.
Back then, times were tough, and we acquired the taste of powdered milk. We learned to survive, as my mother always reminded us, “only the strong survive.” When things were really bad, we’d load up and head over to my grandparent’s place, where there was always plenty to eat, and more than enough love to compensate for what we lacked in material things.
As Christmas was approaching, I remember coming to peace with the fact we would not be receiving many gifts, if any. Sure, we always got the bundle of socks and underwear from our grandparents, and a pair of pants and a shirt from my uncle Danny and Aunt Stella, but to wish for something nice was futile.
We chopped down a Christmas tree somewhere…a small one that fit in the corner of our living room, draped in lights, popcorn stringer, ornaments and tinsel. It had a Charlie Brown Christmas tree sort of feel, and made us feel as though things would be alright.
On Christmas eve, as the night wound down, I sat on the sofa, joined by my two younger brothers Jack and Sky. Jack was in 1st grade and Sky was just a baby, still in diapers. As usual,my mother opted to work to get double time, and my sister was at a friend’s house.
As we sat there, snuggled down, staring at our little tree and telling stories, they fell asleep. There we were, three boys, clueless about the future, wrapped in the moment.
I remember thinking at the time, “You need to remember this night. This is what Christmas is about…family, not gifts.” I’m not sure what time I fell asleep, but in the morning, my mother came in from work saying, “Merry Christmas!”
We all woke up, went into her room, and hopped up on the bed. We didn’t have much, but we had everything. As I look back now, I’m grateful for the love we had during those trying times. I am grateful for my grandparents, aunts, uncles and family who all stepped in to help when they could.
As you can imagine, Christmas is not about toys at our house.
From Me to you, and from our GOPisForMe family to yours…Merry Christmas!