One of the things I love most about Christmas is that no matter a person’s beliefs or religion, there’s something about Christmas that always seems to bring people together. It brings out the best in us – it truly is a time for forgiveness, for generosity, and of course, a time for family. It’s a time for caring and sharing, for laughter and hope.
So in the spirit of Christmas, I’ll share one of the stories of my family. It’s not a flashy story; there’s no life-changing miracle, but its special to me anyway.
We became a single-parent family in the month of March, when my children were still very young; L was only 6.5, J was 4.5, and E was only 3. To say money was tight would be an understatement. Putting food on the table was a struggle, let alone keeping up with clothing three children who seemed to grow in leaps and bounds each and every night. To give you an idea of how poor we were: my eldest son attended a school 20km from our home, and I couldn’t afford the petrol to make the to-and-fro journey twice a day. My solution was to pack food, books, games, balls, blankets, craft items, etc and J, E, and I would amuse ourselves in one of the local parks for the six hours he was at school. We did craft, played games, and read thousands of books. E would have her nap beneath a shady tree. We did that for almost twelve months until I found a house closer to the school that I could afford.
As that first Christmas approached, I began to panic. There was no money for gifts, and I couldn’t bear the thought of there being no presents beneath the tree for my children. I had to think of something.
Necessity is the mother of invention, and how true those words are.
Each night in the weeks leading up to Christmas, I worked like a woman possessed.
I went through all my lengths of fabric and found pieces suitable to make “superhero” costumes for the boys, and a “princess” dress for my daughter.
Two old gifts from a great aunt who favoured rather garish and ostentatious costume jewellery got dismantled and re-fashioned into a pair of tiaras. (And might I say, as tiaras, they were perfect!)
I copied pictures from their favourite books to make them colouring in books.
And finally, for each of them, I wrote and illustrated a story in which we, and our pets, were the characters. We had unusual names and special powers. We used fantastical weapons and rode on rockets and flying horses. The words told the stories of wonderful fantasy worlds with mythical creatures and dastardly villains, while the illustrations showed the reality of kids in costume on tricycles, or bouncing on a trampoline, our white fluffy kitten, Snowy, the chooks, and me in the kitchen!
The children loved and cherished their gifts. How do I know?
I know, because even today, almost twenty years later, my daughter still has her tiaras. They’ve been repaired a few times, but they held pride of place on her dressing table right up until she carefully packed them to be stored while she travelled the world.
I know because my boys still regularly tease me, calling me, Mummefra The Wise Woman, after my character in their stories.
I know because my daughter rarely calls me Mum. She calls me, Meha, after my character in the story I wrote for her.
That first Christmas was a very tough time, and yet, for me, it was also one of the most beautiful. I feel as if the bond between me and my children was strengthened and solidified that year. It was a year which taught me a few very valuable lessons about what’s important that I’ve never forgotten.
I’m going to leave you with the final verse of J’s story, which was written in rhyme as he loved rhyming with a passion. His character name was Posh Puddle (he also loved puddles, and I could never stop him playing in them, and so his “fetish” found its way into his story…)
Up the stairs and into the bath jumped our Posh
Cos even heroes have to wash.