During December, the Compassion bloggers have been asked to talk about giving and what it means to us.
A couple of weeks ago, my Dad was in town for the day doing some networking and asked me to join him and some friends/colleagues in the evening. They were all a little bit tipsy, and at the end of the night, my Dad, his colleague and myself walked down to Waverley station and past the building of the Edinburgh Christmas markets. I don’t know how we got on the subject but somehow we got on the topic of Christmas 2005, which I found out that my Dad and his colleague had talked about the week before as I started reminiscing about the story. “Oh, your Dad was telling me about that just a few days ago because he said that was the best Christmas he ever had, because he got to spend it with all his children“
You see, from age 5 I never spent Christmas Day with my Dad. Even after he and my mother separated, he was always invited to see us on Christmas Day but he chose not to when I turned 5.
Christmas and birthdays were always done twice. Once on the day with my Mum, and once another day with my Dad. Boxing Day was always my Christmas with him – Santa always knew to leave some of my presents there. Clever Santa.
In the summer of 2005, I ended up living at my Dad’s home, and it was a brilliant summer. My sister and I (and I hope our brother too) have great memories from that summer. Koalas arrived at Edinburgh Zoo that year, and my family thought all the signs ‘to me’ were hilarious. It was the first summer I had Cassie the Corsa, my best friend was getting married at the end of it, we threw a surprise birthday for our Dad who turned 50, we had so many trips to the cinema, the zoo, to watch football games, we shopped, I only worked part-time. And it was at the end of the summer when I had to go back to university that my sister and stepmother started pestering me to spend Christmas Day with them. I said No at first. And then my stepmother and I decided we would surprise them.
It meant at least a month (if not more) of taking A LOT of slack and guilt trips from my sister and my Dad, while I was acting like I wasn’t coming.
On Christmas Eve, I kept the tradition of going to church with my Mum at Midnight, and afterward I drove to my Dad’s house, arriving past 1 a.m. when my sister and brother were asleep. My Dad had drunk a couple of glasses of champagne that night and was in a state of shock when I walked through the front door. After some hugs, I went to bed, ready for my younger siblings to discover me the next morning.
That’s when we discovered how unobservant they are.
They did not wake up for ages. Eventually I went to the bathroom on purpose knowing my en suite bathroom shares a wall with my sister’s bedroom, thinking she’d for sure hearing the toilet flushing.
She didn’t get the hint.
Eventually my brother was ordered to take my stocking and put it on my bed. He wouldn’t do it at first because he was still pouting that I wasn’t going to spend Christmas Day ‘so what was the point?’ (huff, puff, sigh) and when he finally did, he ran in, dumped the stocking on the bed and failed to notice I was in it. I know I’m not that big, but seriously?
As a last resort, my step mum started yelling ‘Look, look it’s been snowing‘.
‘Uh…no it hasn’t‘ replied the giraffe and monkey who were focused on wanting to empty their stockings.
‘No seriously…go and look out the Giraffe’s window‘ (ie the window with the best view of my car)
‘What are you talking about?‘ they yelled.
‘Do you not see anything in the driveway?‘
Insert more loud exasperated huffing, puffing and sighing from the Giraffe & Monkey…
It was then that I think the Monkey finally clocked my car. ‘CASSIE!!!!!!’ (yes, all my family refer to my car as ‘Cassie’ not ‘Laura Anne’s car’) and it was then that they both shouted ‘Is Laura HERE?‘ and decided finally to take a better look in my room.
At this point I decided to hide under the duvet to make a very obvious lump in the middle of the bed and got jumped on by my sister and brother with shouts of ‘KOALA!!!!’ and after the hugs were over I admonished them for their total lack of observation. And we all laughed about it.
That Christmas was tough for me, because as much fun as it was to surprise them, I also know that my Mum was very hurt that I wasn’t spending Christmas with her. It was the only time I’ve not in 28 Christmases I’ve spent on this earth.
But I really had no idea until the other week just how much it had meant to my Dad – that he looks on that as the best Christmas ever.
And that’s when I realised that out of all the gifts I have given, the best one I apparently gave wasn’t one that cost me money…it cost me my time and my presence.
Maybe it’s something we want to think about as we enter this season of feeling obligated to give material things, is there a way of giving that would mean much more to people that just simply buying something for them?