I spent this Christmas Eve sitting in my car in a near-empty mall parking lot, calling the only person that would understand my situation while listening to the rain peter-patter on the roof of my car. Believe me, I didn’t want to spend it this way. If it were up to me, I would be at home sitting on the floor next to the fireplace while watching a Christmas movie but I just had to get away because my mom didn’t seem to understand the meaning of Christmas.
I used to think I know what Christmas is all about too – giving presents and watching the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” and be grateful of how life turned out. The truth is, Christmas is so much more that that.
About two weeks ago, my aunt and I attended my church’s Christmas party. At the party, we had food, played games, exchanged presents but not before a short devotional. “Christmas is about peace and joy,” the pastor’s wife said, “do you agree?” I nodded my head. Absolutely yes. Then I turned to my aunt and said, “I wish my mom was here, that way she would understand and stop infecting us with her bad moods.”
At the beginning of November, my mom was notified by her tenants that they would be moving out at the end of the month. Immediately, she blamed her youngest sister because for a few years now, those tenants had wanted to buy the home but my aunt refused to sell the house and since my aunt is part-owner of the house, my mom couldn’t sell the house without my aunt’s acknowledgement. So ever since the tenants moved out, my mom had been bitter and sour and I’m telling you, bitterness and bad moods are contagious. Her sour moods had made me lose interest in many things like decorating the house for Christmas and putting ornaments on the Christmas tree.
The other thing I learned is Christmas isn’t about gift giving. It’s not about competing who can give the expensive gift or the biggest gift and it’s certainly not about comparing the size of debt between family members. It’s about being happy and spending time with family and those one loves and celebrate and reminisce the ending of another year.
The reason I was sitting in my car in a near-empty parking lot on this Christmas Eve was because I had just about enough with my mom’s bad moods and complaints. It’s Christmas, for Christ sake, can’t you just be happy for once? I remember thinking throughout the family dinner. She kept going on about how she’s the hardest working person and how tired she was. “Everybody work hard,” I said. “Everybody is tired. There’s not one person in this world who’s more or less tired than the next person. You don’t have to compete with everyone with everything. We are all tired and we all have to keep working because that’s just how some people’s lives work – they work, they go home, sleep, rinse and repeat until they reach retirement. This is Christmas, just be happy for this one day.”
She was angry by what I had said. She began dragging my debts into the conversation. As she talked, my chest felt like molten lava rising higher and higher. I have to get out of here before I blow, before I do I’ll regret. Unfortunately, my brain refused to acknowledge the lump of lava in my chest. “That’s not a gift,” I said through gritted teeth, “It’s a loan.” Basically, she pointed out that she had lend me the money to pay off my car and that, to her, is a gift.
“What about I gave you life? How will you repay me for that?” She said. How do I repay her? I remember thinking. For what? For living? So my life is a debt? What the hell? And since when a gift is something that needs to be re-paid?
I couldn’t listen to any more of this. I headed to the coat closet, grabbed my jacket and purse, and fled to my car. From there, my mind spun. I have to get out of here and go where? Not home, I’m not ready. Across the street to the mall? Not far enough. After a few more seconds of deliberation, I sped onto the freeway and drove to the next mall fifteen minutes away and that is why I was sitting in my car in a near-empty parking lot.
And you know what? My life is not a gift from my mom. It’s a gift from God. He gave me life and it’s a gift that does not need to be re-paid.