Turn of events turns holiday focus around

Thursday night, I decided it was time to wrap Christmas presents. My tree had been up for three weeks, and the only lonely present under it was wrapped by my husband. I felt like a slacker and my tree looked sadly bare.

I’d been putting it off and putting it off because finding an area big enough to wrap presents is becoming increasingly difficult as my daughter’s toys take up more and more space.

I put my husband in charge of keeping Vivi occupied in another room. I packed up all of her toys and moved them to a corner of the family room, got out my wrapping paper and other supplies and got to work.

At several points, I had steam coming out of my ears as I struggled to find the scissors or the tape for the upteenth time. Under more wrapping paper or right under my nose is usually where I found the elusive items, but I still swear they have minds — and legs — of their own.

I was bending over large boxes, attempting to make sure wrapping paper was covering every square inch. I cursed under my breath. Holding paper in place on these over-sized gifts while fervently searching for the tape that had walked back under the paper was starting to feel like a game of Twister — a game I don’t think I’ve been limber enough to play for at least a decade.

I was turning in to a regular old Scrooge by the time I finished. I considered leaving the presents where they lay because it was going to take several trips up and down the stairs to place the gifts under our tree.

By the time I sat down for dinner, I had a knot in my shoulder and a sour look on my face. And I knew there were still more to wrap, which meant more bending over backwards and sideways and cleaning up mess.

Then, Friday happened.

That night, I came home from work and was drained. I had spent the last five hours thinking of nothing but the families of 27 people who had been murdered — including 20 children.
Children who were no doubt looking forward to unwrapping gifts that had appeared under their own Christmas trees at home. Children who had compiled Christmas lists to give to Santa and were hoping that just a few of those wishes would come true. Children who were innocent.

When I plugged in the lights on our tree, I stared at those gifts I had just wrapped for my daughter and family and I was overwhelmed.

I thought of those families whose trees now had gifts under them that would never be received. I thought of how awful it must be to have to look at those gifts and figure out what to do with them, now that no tiny hands would unwrap them. I thought of the grief that now exists in the Christmas holiday for those families as each year will be horrible reminder of what was taken from them in a season of giving. I was profoundly sad.

But my daughter was right beside me, looking at the lights on the tree and begging me to press the button on her dancing snowman so that she could dance along.

“Dance, dance,” she said, wide-eyed and pointing at the snowman.

I pressed the button and scooped her up and twirled her around to the tune of a rousing, rocking version of “Let It Snow.”

She giggled and when the music stopped, she pointed again.

I hugged her tight, told her I loved her and pushed the button again.

Then, as we danced some more, I sent up a prayer for peace and comfort for those families, and a prayer of joyous gratitude for the opportunity to have this silly fun with my daughter and the blessing of knowing, in that moment, that I would get to watch her open her presents on Christmas Day.

Now, it seems, nothing would make me happier.

Deann Stumpe

In her weekly column that runs Mondays in the Hastings Tribune, Deann Stumpe gabs about relationships, movies and TV, and life with a baby. She is the Tribune’s special sections editor.

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