For weeks now, the back corner of my living room has looked like a department store threw up in there. So has my guest room, but that's a different Christmas altogether.
For the last several years, Sander and I have 'adopted a family' for the holidays, through Beverly Bootstraps, a local food pantry and outreach organization. For the last two years, my in-laws have joined us, and basically doubled our ability to provide Christmas for a needy family.
The lists are heartbreaking. Sizes for coats and shoes, needs for mittens and hats and underwear described. This year the family that my parents 'got' had a little boy who needed a blanket for his bed. I can only desperately hope his family doesn't wait until Christmas to give it to him. All too often, these are single parents, working and out of work, who can barely break even, and face the reality of having to hold out their hat for a donation or tell their kids that Santa isn't coming this year.
We go a little overboard on the giving. Everyone has some 'societal trigger' - something wrong with the world that bothers them more than anything. For me it's kids being hungry and cold. I find it utterly inexcusable, and totally frustrating. It's not that I don't care about the cold and hungry adults- I do. But kids are powerless to control or change their situations. Add on top of that the notion that Christmas is the time of year that the discrepancy between children that are 'haves', like my daughter, are in stark relief to the 'have not' children themselves - they know they aren't getting what other kids are - and that hunger actually affects a child's brain development, and you not only get the short term pain of no presents under the tree, but the long term societal impact of kids who grow into adults that are starting life out 10 steps behind the rest of us.
The shopping and sorting and dropping off has become the marker of my holiday for me. I love Christmas with my family. With every decoration we add to the house my daughter's excitement grows palpably. I love to cook Christmas dinner, and I love the lights and decorations. Cutting a Christmas tree from the tree farm next door and hauling it home is a favorite tradition.
But that's the fun. For me, Christmas is knowing that this year, 3 kids and their Mom get to believe Santa Claus is real.
My husband and my mother-in-law dropped everything off yesterday. The pile in my living room is gone.
And so Christmas for me is over, even as it is just beginning.
This year, Beverly Bootstraps had 75 more applications for their holiday 'adopt a family' program than last year. I'm happy to say that they covered every single family, and have extras toys to give out to walk-in parents as the season goes on.