By Kim Lowman
Wellness Program Manager
I made a decision this year. I decided not to put up a Christmas Tree. Then came a wave of guilt. I knew I had to make peace with this choice, so I started to think back on holidays of the past, like in the movie, A Christmas Carol. And, you know what… with the exception of maybe 6 of my 59 Christmases, I cannot remember the tree! What I do remember are memories that I can connect to each holiday season. Some are joyful and comforting. Some are tragic but silver-lined. Today I want to share what should have been the worst Christmas and yet I remember it as one filled with miracles and hope.
In 1977, the first week of December, my family home burned down. It was a tragedy of course, and I remember my father telling my brothers, sisters and me that we had nothing “but the clothes on our backs.” Here is why I tell this story… My grandmother had made me a pink and green quilt a couple years prior. I was told not to go into the house once the fire was out, but I did. I went right up to my bedroom which was above where the fire was thought to have originated. My room was destroyed and there was a terrible gray dinge everywhere, except for a tiny bit of pink on the floor in the corner. I went to look and there was my quilt. Undisturbed. A bit charred and smoke stained, but in one piece. It is the only thing of mine that survived, and I still have it to this day- 42 years later. That was the first miracle.
For two weeks before Christmas my family was broken into different places; my brothers to one family friend, me to another, and my sisters and parents living in a hotel. Out of the blue, my parents were contacted. Two families in our town had just combined like the Brady Bunch and they had an “extra” house that was standing empty on the next street over from ours. Exact amount of bedrooms we needed. They offered it to my parents and refused to take any rent. So, on December 21st we all moved into this house. Neighbors and friends brought Christmas gifts and put up a fabulous fake white tree that looked very Hollywood to me. We had a place to call home and my whole family was back together in our own neighborhood. That was the second miracle.
At this same time, I had a temp job doing filing work after school at an insurance agency. There was a “Secret Santa” type of gift giving and I had drawn the name of an older woman named Ruth. I didn’t know much about her except that she had numbers tattooed on her arm and I knew that meant she had been in a concentration camp. I asked around to see what I should get her and a scarf was the popular answer. I suddenly had this intense need to understand what those numbers meant; so I went to the library and researched. I was horrified. Amidst all the anxiety of our house fire, I could not feel anything but fortunate. I wish I had spent more time talking to Ruth but truth is I did not. Yet, she unknowingly put a fire in my belly. I have spent the last 42 years reading every survivor story I can. I learned about Hanukkah and the miracle of 8 days of light with only one day’s oil. It later dawned on me that Ruthie’s scarf was a Hanukkah gift and I likely wrapped it in Christmas paper not knowing the difference. I have since learned tolerance, acceptance, how to always speak up, keep hope and faith alive and to believe in miracles. I think of her often. She was the third miracle of that December 1977.
Holidays can be wonderful. They can be difficult. They can be joyful. They can be sad. However, there are many miracles big and small hidden for us to find if we look for them. As you celebrate your holidays, I hope you find the hidden miracles in the people you meet, places you go and in small patches of pink if the day seems a little grey.