Growing up, the best part about the holidays was seeing how NYC got all decked out for the holidays with the gigantic tree at Rockefeller Center, the lights everywhere, and the store windows all beautifully decorated. At home, it was always just me, with my mom and grandma. That was my entire family, and my grandma’s big tradition was going to midnight mass on Christmas Eve, which to be honest I hated. I just wanted to go to sleep and wake up to a bunch of gifts under the tree– and I longed for a fire place with stockings, but of course that wasn’t going to happen in our modest little apartment, with Santa always on a budget. But I never gave up hope that one day I would have the kind of Christmas that I’d always dreamed of, if not for me, then for my own child.
And so it has been my whole life, I’ve always had to wait for things. It took me 21 years to finally break my family’s cycle and become the first college graduate. Soon thereafter, I broke another record by finishing law school and getting married at age 25. Then I had to wait another 5 long years to get to the place in my career where I felt secure enough to tackle motherhood while balancing that with the demands of work. Finally, it is in the last 10 years that I’ve focused on righting all the wrongs from the past, and basically everything I did not get to have as a child, I’ve made up for with my own son. Funny thing is that along the way an unexpected thing happened–that poor little 8 year old girl from Queens that longed for so much has come out to play with him. Turns out, all this time she’s been waiting– waiting for the moment where she could finally have those experiences that so many others seemed to just take for granted, like family beach vacations, or Disney with the family or even just Christmas dinner surrounded with a big family.
This year in particular, my son seems to be far more aware of things than ever before, and the other day as we were baking more cookies for Santa, he asked me whether when I was a child I ever decorated my home the way we do now. Of course, the answer was “no.” Then he asked about the gifts I got, and of course the answer was that I never got anywhere close to the gifts he gets. Finally he said, “if you always just had dinner with your mom and grandma, then Christmas dinner would not really be any different from any other day.” Of course the answer to that was he was dead right. With that, he lay his hand on top of mine and said, “I’m so sorry that Christmas was not very special for you, the way it is for me. Now I understand why you make such a big deal about it.”
There certainly is no doubt that I love Christmas as an adult, but perhaps the motivation hasn’t always been so obvious. The fact that I can provide my son with some beautiful traditions and experiences that I lacked at his age is a true gift that I cherish, and even more important now is that he is able to appreciate that not everyone is as fortunate. My early experiences not only motivated me to excel, but they kept me humble. I remain eternally grateful to all those that have helped me, and together we have all proven that good things do indeed come to those that wait.