Happy Holidays …
VIRTUAL CHRISTMAS by Pat Hanson, Ph.D.
© A Miracle Under the Tree: Real Stories of Hope, Faith and the True Meaning of Christmas – Harlequin 2012
I prefer Halloween to Christmas. You have an excuse for putting on a mask, can dress up any way you’d like, and pretend. Soon after, when retailers start luring us with Christmas decorations, muz-ac everywhere plays carols and television repeats all those soppy movies … I get depressed. Some Christmases are more difficult than others, but one that could have been a catastrophe, transformed forever how our family celebrates December 25th.
In 1996, the day before the office Christmas party, my boss called me in to his office and gave me 30 days notice. Since summer, I’d been the sole support of my husband and teenage stepson, after his plumbing business tanked. Credit cards at their limit, stretched by one income instead of two to cover the expenses of three; we’d done no Christmas shopping and hadn’t even bought a tree. I didn’t know how I would be able to numb myself with holiday cheer and forget the reality of my financial situation. Tears ran down my cheek on the way home as the announcer proclaimed six shopping days left and the shrill voices of the Chipmunks sang ‘Christmas, Christmas time is here, time to sing, time for cheer.’
Somehow that week, out of the depths of my despair, I got an idea. We’d have a ‘Virtual Christmas.’ We’d each find and wrap up pictures of five gifts we would have been thoughtful and generous enough to buy, had there been money to put into circulation! And central to this plan was that one of the virtual gifts had to be intangible, like a quality within you’d like the other to have.
Three days before Christmas I hid the stockings and we decorated our ficus plant with lights. We each looked through catalogues, magazines and our hearts to choose five replica presents for one another, and place them under the ‘tree.’ In addition to the gifts of not only the car, the driver’s license, the baggy sweatshirt and pants, and guitar lessons I’d give to my stepson; was a fifth gift of “confidence in his own talent” that I wrote on a certificate for a course in entrepreneurship for teenagers, so he could market the artistic skill so evident in his cartoons.
He really got into it. He gave me concert tickets to Sting and Gloria Estefan, a color printer for my computer, and some Laurel Burch earrings all wrapped in comics from the Sunday paper. This teenager’s conceptual gift to his stepmom was a sign that said ‘No Speed Limit!’ Besides a white Porsche, Larry gifted me with a vacation in Hawaii, a new PowerBook, a set of Cutco knives, and a stud from the pages of Playgirl (for the few times our batteries are out of synch, he wrote). His conceptual gift to me on a 3×5 card: I give you the magic sword to conquer your Boogie Man, permission to be gentle with yourself, and license to proceed full steam ahead with realization of your writing dreams!
For my beloved, I wrapped up the picture of a nose-hair tweezers from the Hammecker Schlemmer catalogue. He’d get a car too, a Dodge Viper like the one we saw the weekend we met, plus a leather jacket, more memory for his computer and a video camera so he could practice at his dream career: film maker. For his virtual gift I inscribed words on a magnifying glass that mirrored utter and absolute belief in himself and the unlimited power of his creativity. On Christmas morning, looking at his face as he stared out at the sunrise with tears in his eyes, I silently sent him that missing one percent of faith that would help us all actualize our dreams.
The virtual Christmas presents worked. It’s amazing how a concept once put in the mind, can manifest. One year later we’d moved and my stepson was registered for a course on Art Presentation at the local community college. My husband was finishing the college degree he’d left 31 years prior. His belief in himself prompted a mid-life career shift to multi-media instructional technology. I’d successfully hoisted that sword to my writing fears, was studying screenwriting and had published some freelance non-fiction.
The three of us found a way to give and love without a word about costs and returns. I offer it now fifteen years later, with an economy in even deeper trouble than it was back then. May our model help your family help yours feel the spirit that is embodied in the mysterious figure who’s birthday we sometimes forget in the rush to shop those few weeks at the end of every year. May it help you feel the love, warmth and present moment with each other on December 25th and all days.
I would virtually gift us a view of the human condition that goes beyond one’s worth being determined by work, by your j-o-b. I’d bless us with divine insight as to how the preciousness of each moment must be cherished. I’d gift us all with the capacity to see the abundance around us everywhere. I’d have us each yell ‘thank you!’ as I do every day from Route One of that wide Monterey Bay, or from wherever we are, for the gift of sight alone. My conceptual Virtual Gift this year would show us how serving others (there are always those in more need) is a two way street. Giving in some way, to some source no matter how small, can start a mobius strip of return. I’d wrap up the concept that love and forgiveness matter, and little else does. How hugs are more important than deadlines. How breathing deeply and sitting still is more essential than driving fast or shopping or even eating a lot.
It is the power of positive intention that counts. Make your holidays this season ‘virtual’ and they can still be ‘merry’!
Pat Hanson, Ph.D, www.invisiblegrandparent.com and www.leavealegacyoflovenow.com is a seasoned health educator, public speaker and author of Invisible Grandparenting: Leave a Legacy of Love Whether You Can Be There or Not. It reveals creative ways to handle separation, transform negative energy to forgiveness and pass on “what we know in our bones” to support the futures of all grandchildren. She lectures nationally on Aging Positively, and is a columnist for www,GRANDmagazine.com & Crone: Women Coming of Age (www.cronemagazine.com).