Christmas 2003 – The Best Worst Christmas Ever
(retrieved after hacker attack)
Originally Published Dec. 7 2009
My twins were born December 6, 2003 at only 30 weeks. They were fragile, tiny alien looking things with wires and tubes and beeping, flashing monitors. We couldn’t hold them. They were in separate NICU rooms in small, see-through isolettes wearing nothing but diapers. Those diapers! Maxi pads were bigger.
Christmas would be spent three hours from home in a Ronald McDonald house with strangers. My then 5 year old daughter was my main concern. Although there was no way I was leaving my babies, she was old enough to have memories and I wanted to make Christmas magic for her even if we were away from home. Her daddy handled the home front while she was in school, putting up a tree and decorating it(his way, even at five she laughed at this). He took her to talk to Santa and they wrote a letter. I prepared by getting a tiny 12 inch tree for our single room and hanging her stocking on the door knob.
December 22, Hubby brought daughter to see the twins and secretly drop off a stash of gifts kindly stored in the neighboring RMH room. He went back home to work and planned to join us Christmas Eve so our family could be together.
December 23 my daughter was admitted to the hospital with an infection. She was on a separate floor from my twins and I could not see them as I had been with her and could have been infected. I spent hours traipsing from one floor with her to the NICU where the nurse’s would wheel the isolettes to the doorway where I could look in at my babies.
December 24 my husband collapsed at work, struck by a debilitating viral flu that landed his butt in the ICU of our local hospital. I panicked. I wanted to be with him, I wanted to be with my babies. I wanted to be with my daughter. I was three hours away with our children in different hospital rooms. Me, I was simply recovering from a premature birth via c-section. I sat in the waiting room and bawled. This Christmas sucked!
Tears never solved anything so I dried my face, slapped on a smile and went to my daughter. The doctors released her and I took her back to the RMH determined to find some way to make some magic for her. I couldn’t have my family together, I couldn’t hold my babies and I felt like crap, but by God, I was going to find something to smile about. For her.
Back at the RMH, families had gathered by the common tree and were visiting with a volunteer Santa. These families were all ragged, exhausted, brought together by tragedy. They understood it wasn’t blood ties that brought us to the same place but sickness and injury. They found joy wherever it was, no matter how small. This night, it was a visit from a fat man in a red suit with a fake beard.
My daughter ached to go see Santa on the most magical night of childhood but she was still sick and I couldn’t risk her being around any of the fragile immune systems of other ill children. We watched from the hallway. Santa saw her and came over. He asked her name and if she had been a good girl. He asked what she would like for Christmas.
My daughter at five years old, ripped from her comfortable house with her familiar toys and bed, with no grandparents around and no special planned dinners, with her family sick and scattered, stunned me and him. She asked to hold her brothers. Santa said that even Christmas Magic can’t make tiny bodies strong enough for that but he’d give her anything else he could. She thought a minute, smiled and said a hairbrush. She wanted a red hair brush.
Santa paused and asked what else, surely there was something else she wanted- A bike or a doll, maybe a computer game. She shook her head and said No, she had brothers and a Mom and Dad and plenty of toys. He could take the presents to other kids who needed them. She just wanted a red hair brush. Santa sniffed, patted her head and told me she was a wonderful child. He said not one child had ever been so selfless in his 25 years of playing Santa. I agreed, wiped my wet eyes and wondered where I could find a red hair brush on Christmas Eve at 8PM.
Late that night, as she slept in our single room, I crept out and brought in gifts, piling them beside our tiny tree. I filled her stocking and worried over a red hair brush that wasn’t there. A gentle knock around 3AM had me scrambling. There was no one at the door but there were two gifts– a red hair brush with a gold bow and a huge stuffed lion. The note read for “the little girl with the heart of a lion”.
Christmas morning came, my husband was released. I got to hold my twins on New Years and brought them home in February. The lion graces my daughter’s bed to this day. It was the worst Christmas I could ever imagine. She thinks it was one of the best. All she remembers was she got two brothers and a hair brush. I hadn’t known but that was the year she wondered if Santa was real. After that, she knew he was. Santa made magic for her. She made magic for me.
Christmas isn’t in the gifts, it is in believing. Believing makes magic even in the middle of sorrow. That is something my character Frannie learns in the story JINXED. You have to believe to receive.
I hope you all believe and receive your heart’s desires this year. Merry Christmas!