This was the first Christmas after my mother had died. It was all the sad and awful things you can imagine it would be. My mother WAS Christmas in our family. My father and I tried, but the void where my mother used to stand was unyeilding and vast. Grief was a cloak we wore like a security blanket.
But Christmas came — as the Grinch stated — no one stops Christmas from coming. No matter what. And it has taken me nearly all of my life to understand the true gift that I received all those years ago from my father. My father — the Non Parent.
My father had never raised a girl. He had no idea of gender roles or what was appropriate for a thirteen year old girl. At times, I think he viewed me as a short adult. And thus he gave me — freedom, a complete sense of independence to be exactly who I wanted to be, do exactly what I wanted to do. No shoulds or shouldn’ts.
In the months immediately after my mother’s death, I received a black saddle with a red seat to contrast the white horse I had begun riding. I also received my first gun — a .22 rifle and I became a proficient shot. Under the tree that Christmas my father gave me three things — a blow dryer, Charlie perfume, and the Elton John album “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”. It might have been his attempt to bring some feminine balance to the equation. It didn’t really work. My long hair defied taming, the perfume never did cover the smell of leather and barn that clung to every article of clothing I owned, and Elton John was simply the gateway drug to my rock and roll addiction. Soon enough my album collection would contain Black Sabbath, Zed Zepplin, and AC/DC.
But his real gift was this — I was given a chance to excercise my independent nature and my free spirit. I grew strong and strong willed. I was allowed opinions. No one kept tabs on me and I learned to be responsible for my own actions.
I survived that Christmas and all the other ones that followed.
I still miss my mother. I would have given a lot to have had more Christmases with her. But life doesn’t work like that. Gifts given aren’t always the ones we ask for.
As the song goes — “ You don’t always get what you want — but if you try sometimes — well you just might find — you get what you need”.