I grew up in poverty and my mom struggled to provide for my siblings, however, there was always excitement around Christmas time! I remember looking forward to Christmas each year because it was the one time of the year I knew I would get something new. I knew we were less fortunate, but it never bothered me – it was just “normal” for me. I never questioned much, but accepted my circumstances for what they were.
I remember different companies and nonprofits assisting my mom in purchasing our Christmas gifts each year. I loved waking up bright and early, at 7 am to open all my gifts. I remember being given a new bike, makeup, winter clothes and more. After opening gifts my sibling and I would clean up and my mom would make us food for lunch.
Truthfully, I can only remember five to six Christmases with my family before I entered foster care at 6 years old. If I would’ve known then what my future held, I’d have spent more time embracing my mom, brothers, and sister during the holidays we spent together, but I was a kid. The adult me wishes that as a child I would have valued the actual time together more than the presents, because I know now that the real presents weren’t the things in front of my face, but the presence of the people in front of my face – my family..
If I could go back, the only gift I would ask for is more time with my family. The makeup, shoes, and toys are all gone. The holiday season brings both joy and grief for what is and what should have been. My foster family has been a safe space to create memories and holiday traditions. They’ve expanded my horizon on how to celebrate Christmas, and I truly experience joy around the holidays, baking Christmas cookies, seeing holiday lights every year, and decorating the house. These traditions are a consistent experience I look forward to each year and they’re ones I am a part of.
Written by: Bilonda Tshimanga