By Sooz, Founder
At Christmas, the vision of Norman Rockwell’s holiday magazine cover was and indeed is everyone’s dream, however it truly wasn’t and still isn’t everyone’s reality. I was not mine. My reality during Christmas as I was growing up was a family pretending to be the Rockwell version on Christmas. Maybe we fooled some visiting relatives whom we hadn’t seen for years, but no matter how the holiday scene played out, in my heart and mind I knew this was just a one-day pretense. Soon reality would return. But, for that day, I fondly remember Christmas Mass, like an escape from the false show I didn’t want to play a role in. I wished I could spend my day just sitting there alone, me and baby Jesus. Instead, I left the church with a heavy heart, back to the house were everything was fake, even Santa. It wouldn’t be until I was in 8th grade that I was invited to join a friend’s family for a regular weeknight dinner. It wasn’t even Christmas, and all the members were still there, eating, talking and laughing—and it wasn’t for show either. As more friends invited me over for dinner, I started to realize the pretense of Christmas at my house was normal in other homes, and I started to have a new kind of hope.
I also started to search for Jesus who, at the center of that painful pretense, was there for me. The nuns had taught me Jesus was not limited to Christmas but present every day, so I knew there was more to discover if I looked. It was a difficult process, however, because the image of Jesus that hung on the wall in my childhood home did not deter the abuses who came and went through my childhood. I needed Jesus every day, but the abuse seemed more present thanI could feel him.
Years later, I was blessed with my own family when God choose me to be the mother of my adopted son. My world changed. My home was mine to keep safe and well. I could create a different world for my son. My relationship with God also transformed. The image of His son hung in our home without the abusers to affront him and confuse me or my son. God became part of every day for my new, real family. And, on my son’s first Christmas, I too had my own first childhood special Christmas memory, my son and I together, both as children of God in a home of love, safety and truth. It was so beautiful!
How did I get there? It was a long haul. For those who are burdened by sad holiday memories, I can only share this lesson I learned. I moved from a false holiday to a true and love-filled Christmas by surrounding myself with friends who support me, lift me up and respect who I am. They helped me grow my new life and cultivate my new family. That is how my Christmas wish as a child came true when I was an adult: I have a real family every day of the year now, a family with all the feelings and experiences families have, happy, sad, glad, and truly loving. That was key to my Christmas joy, to be able to receive, know and feel true love – those are true gifts all year. And, that key to Christmas is what I wish for everyone reading this, a family that does not need to pretend to be a Rockwell painting because, whatever it may look like, it is real and full of love for you and full of God’s love for all.