to desire the replica

posted on: December 9th, 2009

It’s no secret that I grew up poor with a hard working hippy single mother at the helm of our often listing ship. For some reason, Christmas time always makes me revisit those days in my mind. It snowed here last night- only a little skiff- but as I walked to work and it fell lightly around me I found myself thinking of the Christmas’ of my youth. There were many years that I just assumed that Christmas wouldn’t apply to us as we simply didn’t have the resources to pull it off. It’s not that I thought Santa didn’t like us, it’s that I knew he didn’t exist. Is it just me or do poor kids stop believing in him years sooner than kids raised in a higher income bracket??? We were also not religious and therefore had no problem skipping the whole “birth of baby jesus” hoopla. Christmas isn’t a religious holiday for me- in fact in my mind, seeing as more people have been slaughtered and more wars started over conflicting religious beliefs, I have no problem saying we’d all be better off without it. Faith yes. Organized religion? No.

But that’s a whole other post with a whole other pile of hate mail…..

So, when Christmas rolls around every year and those little Salvation Army buckets come out I can’t help but feel a little nostalgic. We were welfare kids. We had more than one Salvation Army Christmas. I’m sure my mom was a little leery that first year- unsure whether the kid’s party would be fraught with bible stories and frankincense & myrrh- but she was bound and determined to swallow her pride for our sake.  We walked into a room full of kids that looked just like us- kids trying to look tough and nonchalant but secretly a little eager and  a little excited. I remember the uniforms- those Salvation army uniforms that looked so official- and I thought I smelled a rat. I remember wondering how long it would be until we were asked to leave- probably when the bibles came out.

I can tell you from first hand experience that despite their name, that Army wasn’t after my Salvation. They just smiled and handed me cocco and cookies and we sang carols. Not hymns, we sang carols. They made us feel like welcome arrivals, like they had been waiting for us. We had several Christmas’ with the help of the Salvation Army and they will always hold a special place in my heart. As an adult, I always put money in every single one of those those kettles that I see (believe me, the one at the liquor store does well) and I always get a lump in my throat when the person jingling the bell says “thank you” because it’s I who is thankful.

Right before writing this post I dropped off a bag of toys to “Toys for Tots” who distribute them via organizations like Big Brothers & Sisters, the YMCA, the local shelters and the Salvation Army. The pile of gifts, which was growing by the second, was easily as wide and high as 2 full sized pickups, side by side. As I stood waiting for my turn to add my toys I was thinking that dozens of years ago in a pile of gifts just like this one, there was- against all odds in my young mind-a toy for me brought by a stranger who stood in a line just as I was doing now.

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Brian Smart Says:

My aunt (Dad’s little sister) and uncle spent about 30 in the Salvation Army and I think were posted to almost every province or territory in the country over the span of their careers. Although I’m with you on the whole religion thing, you are exactly right in that they never once tried to save me from my roller coaster ride to hell. Great folks who sure didn’t get rich doing this work, in fact I think they endured a great deal of personal hardship as a result of their life’s work. I’m sure if they had to do it all over again they wouldn’t change a bit of it.

that was very touching. i started my xmas post but it is still sitting in drafts. i think it is great that you have such a positive attitude.

Kim Says:

gg- Not always… ha ha. But about how much my mom struggled and the sacrifices she made… to be anything other than positive & grateful seems like it would be a slap in her face. A very undeserved one.

that is probably what makes all the difference is how much she cared for you. that in itself is a gift.

Brian Smart Says:

This also remindes me of a program my wife took part in a few years back where they hooked her up with a single mom (a very young single mom in my estimation) and then my wife went out and got some presents for her kids and a bunch of stuff for the single mother herself (bath stuff and other such items). I remember when we went over to drop the stuff off (it was OK with this young lady apparently) and her and my wife stood in the hallway…I don’t remember who started crying first but anyway there they are hugging and crying and I’m just looking at my shoes. I think I got something in my eye at that point just by coincidence.

justjp Says:

I understand where you are coming from. I too grew up in the same manner, just sans Army. Now, I make sure to donate when I can, hoping it will help in some way. Powerful post!

Jeannie Says:

We had one Sally Ann Christmas. It is remembered more fondly and with greater thanks by all of us than any other.

Kim Says:

Jeannie & jp- I think everyone should have a poor Christmas or two- it puts things into perspective, or at least it did for me.
Brian- I’m sure it was just an eyelash in your eye… ;) Ya big softie!

Great post girl. I can’t wait to read the one about ‘organized religion’. — Hey, a question, “Where is the poetry corner of this place?”; you know, for dead babies and such.

now i’m all teary at work. i love this post. it really brings xmas into perspective. all through high school i went to a group home for kids going through foster care. they mostly needed coats but we got toys and stuff too. those kids were SO happy with everything we brought them and to just hang out with us as well.

ps you would get love mail from me :)

Kim Says:

Thanks Becky!

Desert Rat Says:

That was my exact Christmas also for many years. We also lived in motels and sometimes a “santa” the motel contacted would come and bring us gifts out of a van.
and therefore now I too put in the can; the other day I bought two bags of bagged groceries which the store donates once you pick your amount(all our holiday groceries came from the Salvation Army). I don’t have much right now but I had a lot less then so I give because I remember and I know I don’t need now. In my old job days, I’d organize a HUGE event and give out toys and breakfast to 5000, one year 15000 families(my boss paid for it all). I also sponsor two families quietly every year through the boy scouts. Brian’s comment made me gasp cry. ;-)

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