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And Finally: Christmas is Back

Reprinted from PN/Paraplegia News December 2015

The spirit of Christmas

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If your Christmas celebrations are anything like mine, they’ve changed greatly from the holiday celebrations I remember as a child. With a few exceptions, those were filled with wonder and excitement. All the children would stay up late the night before, believing we would catch a glimpse of Santa — for sure this time. We’d prepare for that day for at least three weeks. From picking out the Christmas tree with dad, bringing it home and decorating it, to making sure the lights outside were perfect, to being on our best behavior. I guess we were hoping a perfect December would make up for all the trouble we caused the other 11 months. We spent Christmas Eve day making the perfect chocolate chip cookies, putting the finishing touches on the tree and ending the day placing the cookies and milk on the usual table next to the tree.
Our dad would even pretend to let us stay up and hopefully catch a glimpse of the man in red. Thinking back, dad may have put some cognac, or maybe even cough syrup, in our ice cream to make sure we would fall asleep, and sleep soundly while he placed the presents under the tree.  To this day, I still don’t know how he did it. That’s one secret I’ll have to get from him. But I’m not at all angry. A father’s efforts to ensure his children retained their innocence one more year should always get a pass in my book.

Letting Go Of Santa

Now, I’m an adult and no longer innocent. Maybe that’s a good thing, maybe not. On one hand, how can believing in something like Santa be damaging to a young mind and heart? However, if you believe in Santa, then you have to consider ghosts, ghouls and zombies, too. And they’re not so nice. In fantasy, as well as in life, I guess you can’t have one without the other.  
It’s a concept we’ve all learned while going along through life, day to day, month to month. Attempting to come to grips with our new perspective, having to look up to most everyone and cursing every city employee who decided not to put a ramp at the end of the sidewalk so you can cross the street.
So life has its ups and downs. But this month really used to be one of the up months, and it slowly disappeared for me the day I learned it was my parents who put those presents under the tree and not Santa. I’ve never looked at that man in the Santa suit at the mall the same way since. However, I wonder if letting go of Santa Claus was a good thing.

Accepting The Change

I’ve been injured since 2009 and haven’t put up a Christmas tree since then. I guess I figured what’s the point? It’s just a holiday created by the church and government to force people to buy presents and spend their money. Man, even as I read that sentence, I long for the world of anticipation, cookies, wrapped presents and Santa.
I’ve learned that when something bad happens to me I can become cynical about everything. Sunshine becomes a harbinger for rain, nurses and doctors are here for the benefits and don’t care about the patients and Christmas is a plot to take my money.
It’s been six years and I’m not perfectly adjusted yet. I can’t say if I ever will, but I’m making myself change my way of looking at the world. The first step was to stop blaming the world for what happened to me and the second was to accept the change to my body and lifestyle without any judgement of good or bad.
And gradually, because this doesn’t happen overnight, sunshine became the wonder of the day, the nurses and doctors became my friends and caregivers and the magic of Christmas began to shine within me again, albeit with a few small alterations.

Welcome Again

For starters, my wife and I are getting a Christmas tree this year and she was surprised to hear me ask for one.  It’ll be artificial and fire retardant, but it’ll be decorated to the nines. And we’ll be making cookies and even putting them next to the tree before we go to bed. Perhaps my wife and I know Santa won’t be coming down our chimney, no reindeer will land on our apartment roof and no ho-ho-ho’s will be heard. But is that because Santa doesn’t exist or because I stopped inviting him into my home and my heart?
In my apartment complex there are two young children who I see frequently rolling around in their wheelchairs. We always wave and I always see a huge smile on their faces.
I’m wondering if they’re helping prepare for Santa’s arrival or are they complaining about their parents being fooled into spending money on presents? That question, like so many others, need not be answered.
One thing is for sure. This year, there will be presents under the tree, cookies and milk on a table and red and green lights on the tree, as well as inside and outside of my apartment.
If Santa does fly by this year, he’ll know he’s again welcome in my home and my heart. And to all who read this column, Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.

Scoba Rhodes is a U.S. Navy veteran and author of  Rules of Engagement: A Self-Help Guide for Those Overcoming Major Personal Trauma.

 

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And Finally: Christmas is Back

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