Tough lesson learned during challenging holidays


MelieAn William

Stockings hang from the mantel at MelieAn William’s home. It was her family’s first Christmas without their father, who passed away earlier this fall.

As I shuffled into the car after a long night practicing for our church’s Christmas Eve program, I was ready to go home. Before practice, I had stashed my iPad under the passenger seat, with my incomplete college application still on it, so I reached under the seat to continue and submit it. However, when I opened the iPad, I realized that my application was no longer on the screen. One of my siblings had used the iPad and deleted my tab, meaning the hours I had spent writing essays had gone to waste.

As my eyes lingered on the pitiful fireplace, I came to the most practical realization: It’s a good thing I’m not Santa Clause. In my quest for holiday cheer, I had managed to make my efforts about my own cheer rather than the cheer of those around me.

At this point, I was pushed to my last nerve. Earlier that morning, I had decided to fill each stocking with goodies for everyone in light of the holiday season. With dad gone due to cancer, I knew Christmas wouldn’t be the same. Everyone was tense from everything that had happened, so I wanted to find some way to lighten our spirits.
However, throughout our Christmas break, I was constantly reminded of how remarkably far from Hallmark our family was. While I foolishly worked on decorating our house one night, I would wake up to those same decorations in ruins the next. Greedy hands snatched candy canes from the Christmas tree, the ribbons tied around the stairs would be crumpled onto the floor, and the stockings pillaged before I even filled them.
I tried to convince myself that everything was okay, but seeing my hard work on my essays go to waste was the tipping point. As we pulled into the driveway, I angrily flew up the stairs into my room and grabbed a plastic bag. At that moment, all I wanted to do was show my siblings how I felt overlooked.
As I angrily stomped down the stairs, I snatched every stocking I had hung around the fireplace and stuffed each one into a plastic bag. I looked at the decorations I had spent hours preparing by myself and debated if they were worth taking down also. I decided against the idea and stormed back up to my room.
I proceeded to stew for the rest of the night, refusing to eat or communicate with anyone. The following day, around 5:00 a.m., I woke up with the urge to go back downstairs. The rest of the Christmas decorations were still up, and I was debating whether or not I should take them down. As I shuffled sleepily down the stairs, I took a moment to remember what Christmas was like when my dad had been there– specifically, the Christmas I had gotten my first iPhone.
Sitting next to the tree, I began to recall a time where my dad and I had gotten into a huge argument two days before Christmas. I was around thirteen at the time and was embarrassed that I was one of the only kids in my grade who hadn’t gotten an iPhone, which I blamed on him. The argument led to me packing a suitcase and storming out of the house, my dad locking the door behind me. Thankfully, I hadn’t stayed outside for long before being called back home and sent to bed.
I remembered waking up the following day to my disappointed father, who had refused to speak to me for the rest of Christmas Eve. So when Christmas came, I had not set my hopes too high when it came to my gifts. However, as I opened my presents, there it was—that silly iPhone. The very same iPhone was the cause of our horrible argument and why my dad hadn’t talked to me for a whole day.
I regretted every hurtful word I had ever said during that argument and tearfully apologized over and over as I realized that while I argued with my dad a few nights before, he had already wrapped my present under the Christmas tree.
Tears fell from my face as I shook the memory away and brought my attention back to where I was. As I looked up, I allowed myself to scan the room; the lights and colors blurred. As I blinked my tears away, I saw the fireplace I had raided the night before, the hooks for the stockings still bare.
As my eyes lingered on the pitiful fireplace, I came to the most practical realization: It’s a good thing I’m not Santa Clause. In my quest for holiday cheer, I had managed to make my efforts about my own cheer rather than the cheer of those around me. I even managed to make it about Dad by trying to impress myself with how well I could maintain a measly handful of holiday preparations.
However, at that moment, I realized that I couldn’t. Remembering what my dad did that Christmas made me realize how broken I was and, in turn, how broken my siblings were. They didn’t need Christmas presents they deserved; they needed Christmas presents they didn’t deserve. We all did. Giving them those gifts, though they were just stockings, would be my way of reminding them that even though we were struggling, I still loved them and would always be there for them, even when they didn’t deserve it — the same way I had been reminded, many Christmases ago.