Not all gifts have to come in a bow. Erin Kelly reflects on the ones that mean the most to her.
The expression, “Never take food off another man’s plate!” is simple yet profound. It speaks volumes about beliefs, strength and morals. By the same token, it’s simple enough for a child to understand—but that’s where temptation can come into play. Thus, it should make any healthy, red-blooded human being’s bones fill with guilt when they take even the smallest crumb off someone else’s plate.
Even if it’s in good conscience, knowing you’ve taken something that someone else needs isn’t a good way to live. You may not deplete that person of all their resources, but you might inadvertently make it difficult for them to do the things they need to do. I’ve always felt this way, particularly around Christmas time. It’s not because I feel I’m taking or stealing anything from my family—or anyone else. It’s instead because most of the things I want aren’t things money can buy.
By the same token, the fact that I don’t want “normal” or “typical” things makes me work harder. I’m the middle child of three. I have two brothers and all three of us are adopted. So, I’ve inadvertently learned to “think like a man” when it comes to keeping my head down and quietly pushing forward for what I believe in. I’d be foolish if I said my cerebral palsy doesn’t weave a pattern of its own into all this as well.
I always thought my disability made me a burden to my family when I was younger. It’s taken me many years to realize that I don’t add any extra weight to my unique family tree. I knew that my parents and older brother would jump through whatever hoop I asked them to. My younger brother didn’t come into our lives until 2009, but I eventually felt that same sense of love and security with him. Still, I never wanted to place the responsibility of having to take care of me on his shoulders—or anyone else’s, for that matter. It just wasn’t something that I warmed up to, and I thought being was enough of an adjustment for everyone.
My parents are by far the hardest working people I’ve ever known. They’re not rich, but they’ve always made sure my brothers and I have whatever we need—and a little something extra. My Dad is a computer technician specialist by day, musician and disc jockey by night. He often works long hours, including weekends. My Mom is program manager for a local horseback riding organization for kids with disabilities called Dreams Go On.
With everything they have going on in their lives, my parents know how to stretch a dollar. I appreciate that more than words can ever express—and I don’t think it’s my place to ask for anything “big”, especially if it’s something that I know I have to reach for myself. If anything, I’ve always wanted to repay them and give them not only what they want, but what they need.
They’ve had a tradition in our household for as long as I can remember, where we open all our gifts from relatives on Christmas Eve. Then we open everything from The Big Guy in Red on Christmas morning. A few weeks before the big day, they tell me and my brothers, “We need your lists so Santa knows what to get.” We could be sitting down to eat dinner, getting ready to watch a movie or what have you. They always seem to pull this line out in the simplest and most opportune times. This year was no exception, but something about it felt very different to me.
I was in my room finishing up a story I’d been working on. I had a few days before my deadline, so I put the story aside, grabbed a pen and stated to write out my list:
- iTunes cards (spending money for my iPod)
The jeans were a splurge, but the rest of the list looked about right. These are things I put on my list every year because I genuinely want them, and I often end up using them so much that I either break them or run short throughout the year. So, getting these three things is the equivalent of getting a pot of gold.
I’ve considered adding “literary agent” to my list every Christmas, as every year I feel myself coming a little closer to “grabbing the brass ring” and finding the right agent and publisher for the three books I’ve written. I stop myself every time—just like I did again this year. I’ve never asked or expected my parents to be a workhorse for me, especially when it comes to my career. That’s always been on my shoulders and they know I own that responsibility. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Just as that personal, blissful thought left my head, I heard a car door shut and saw Dad’s truck parked in our driveway. A burst of cold, crisp burst of air followed a few minutes later as he came through the lower level garage entrance before putting his keys on the desk beside his computer.
“What’s up, Erin? Any good news today?” he asked, as he usually does when he comes home from work.
“Not yet,” I quietly replied.
That’s my usual answer. My Dad knows how hard I’ve worked to even have a career, and how hard I continue to work to hone my craft. In this particular moment, however, I knew what I want for Christmas this year. I want the fortitude and strength to write until my fingers bleed, in hopes of telling him and the rest of my family, “Yes, I do have good news!
I’ve been climbing my highest, steepest mountain this year, both personally and professionally. With an unexpected diagnosis of Graves’ disease, my health has had my body rolling down a hill while my mind keeps going like the Energizer Bunny. However, I’ve slowly felt my work as a writer elevate to a level I never expected—all in the midst of the pain of needles, blood tests and medication regimens.
I don’t know where I’m going from here, but a little blood and salt from tears isn’t going to stop me. I’m going to keep climbing, because that’s what growing up around boys and men all my life has taught me. If I make it to the top of my mountain, I’ll shine a light on all the underdogs in the world and say, “If I made it, so can you!”—but more than anything, I can’t wait to see what’s next!
Photo Credit: di_ana/Flickr