There are some moments where it feels like time stands still. When my oldest child was 9 months old, he surprised me by taking his first steps. While I stood helplessly nearby, he tumbled down our entire flight of stairs head-first. Though he was no worse for the experience, I remember the event as if it happened in slow motion. I can still see his little body bouncing in the air, feel the carpet beneath my feet as I raced towards him, and recall how it felt to hold him in my arms while he tried to get away to play and I sobbed into his shirt. This ‘what if’ moment stopped me in my tracks. I baby-proofed the house that night and vowed to myself that I would always be there to protect him.
Three years ago today, I felt the earth stop rotating on its’ axis yet again. In a matter of minutes, I went from grumbling about the cold weather, complaining about the time I was spending in the car driving kids to activities, and worrying about all of the gifts that I had left to buy for family and friends, to wondering if that year would be my last Christmas…and if the baby that I was carrying would survive.
It is never a welcome guest.
The days dragged by slowly as we waited for tests and the final results which would provide us with answers, tears, and hope. For the first time in several years, I walked outside as it snowed, reveling in the beautiful, white flakes as they fell to the ground. I stopped my van to let drivers out of crowded parking lots, waited in long lines without feeling irritated, and let go of all of the holiday angst that had overcome me only a few days before. As I sat up Christmas Eve, struggling to breathe, I debated whether or not I should go to the Emergency Room. If this was going to be my last Christmas, I wanted to spend it at home, with my children. In those moments of panic, I realized that the only thing that mattered in my life was my family…my husband, my children, my parents and my friends.
Today, I am officially cancer-free. Our miracle baby is a busy self-proclaimed two year old “princess” whose most recent contribution to the family involved a blue sharpie marker and our brand new beige, leather sofas. Our lives have been forever changed by the experiences of the last few years, but in more positive ways than negative. We have learned to take time for each other, to listen, and to appreciate each day more fully.
I never took down many of the Christmas decorations from that year. The foil garland Christmas tree that my son’s class made for the Middle School Holiday Market still reins above my cupboards. The lights still twinkle each night, offering me a poignant reminder of his love for me: “Mom, I bought this for you because I know how much you love Christmas and I want you to get better.” He was so excited for me to open it, and so proud that he had found that perfect gift for me.
Try as we might, we can’t childproof our lives. There is no promise of tomorrow for any of us. As this holiday season steps up into high gear, I hope you will find joy in the snow, comfort in your family and friends and remember that the best gifts are the simplest kind…they come from the heart.
Published in the St. Cloud Times