My favorite Christmas gift was a sweater. At 16. I’d flown to Alaska to visit Tracy Jane Adams, a former schoolmate from Holy Cross in Las Cruces, New Mexico. I was too dumbfounded by my crush to advance our friendship, yet alone my youthful dreams of love, but fortunately her mother, Marjorie, liked me. Since I was there on Christmas Day she bought me a gift.
I’m certain it was no great labor for Marjorie to find me a gift. She was a middle-class air traffic controller who simply added a gift, for the nice young man visiting, to her ample Christmas list. She didn’t spend a fortune. She purchased a decent sweater, the kind she’d get for her own son, amongst an array of other gifts. I, however, treasured that sweater, as priceless.
My childhood was extremely painful and poor; yet in the U.S., regardless of how poor you are, you are surrounded of images of more affluent and happier lives. The gift was a middle-class sweater. It wasn’t the economic status it represented, it was the romantic image of the middle-class family, and as a gift it made me feel worthy as a person.
I don’t know if that sweater is still packed amongst my mother’s storage things, but I’ve never had the heart to throw that threadbare worn wonder out.
Now the sweater was a tangible thing, but there were so many intangible things that lifted me up or put me down; things still do, though I’m more fortified to resist their effect, to either extreme. Naturally, I’m not blameless in injuring the self-worth of others, but I do struggle, in my little way, as I suppose most do, to be a giver of sweaters.
Come Christmas Day, will we be more conscious of what we’re sharing? Is it Christmas if we’re not? And, as we turn the corner of a new year, can my mind and heart not truly hope for exactly that?
Happy holidays; good health, cheer and love in the new year.
Michael A. “Sasha” Miller