Christmas in three places

December 2, 2007 at 2:42 am 4 comments

I had my day planned out so well.  I confidently strutted around the house, chuckling to myself as I went about my tasks.  The plan was easy; straighten up the house, do a little laundry, work on putting blocks in to a container with Polly and help her climb up the stairs to strengthen her stomach muscles.  Then in the afternoon I was going to bring up the three rubbermaids of Christmas ornaments and decorations from the basement and prepare for our tree trimming party planned for the evening. 

Things were going well until I got to the Christmas part.  Looking through the rather light rubbermaids, I suddenly remembered that I wasn’t really into Christmas the year before.  Wrapped in newspaper were old ornaments that didn’t quite match one another, a few homemade trinkets the kids made in their classes, an awkward Dollar Store tree skirt. 

Last year we were living in Michigan, in a house that was set up for families in need, or missionaries visiting the States for home assignment.  Both requirements, at the time, applied to us.  Our family didn’t know if we were coming or going, literally.  Sergei and I desperately wanted to go back to our work in Ukraine, but we knew it was best for us, namely for Polly, to be in America. So at Christmas time I went to a local goodwill and bought enough to make do.  

Polly was nine months old, and I woke up most days struggling with being a mother of a kid with special needs.  It hadn’t occurred to me that I get to be Polly’s mom, I just wasn’t there yet.   Six weeks after her birth in Ukraine, after she was diagnosed with Down syndrome, we packed up our lives in boxes and stored them at a friend’s house.  We gave long, tight hugs, and weighed and reweighed our luggage stuffed with clothes, a few books, and Christmas stockings.  Then we boarded a plane and flew to America.  

We didn’t bring any of our other Christmas decorations.

I love my Christmas decorations in Ukraine.  On my first Christmas there five years ago, after much hemming and hawing about NOT having decorations, Sergei dutifully took me to one of the up and coming mega stores that are all over nowadays in the Former Soviet Union.  I went to town.  I decked the halls, and felt oh, so much better.  No matter that most Ukrainians don’t care much about Christmas on the thirteenth of January.  No matter that holiday attention is focused on New Year’s celebrations, with Santa and presents and food and good cheer.  Our apartment was lovely and Christmasy.  The hole I felt in my heart for familiarity and family was filled in a bit. 

I guess last year, even though I was near family and familiarity, the hole was empty.  

Although it wasn’t in the plan for the day, after seeing the lack of lights and tinsil, I suited up two out of three girls in the afternoon and headed to the store.  I bought bulbs and snow flakes for the new seven foot slim tree Sergei had brought home the day before.   I bought a new tree skirt, a beautiful wreath, some wrapping paper and bows.

The tree that now stands in our living room, in front of the window, has the same color palette of my tree in Ukraine.  Gold, cream and white, peppered with noodle wreaths painted green, with smiling toothless faces pasted in the middle.  There are a few spots that are bare on the tree, but I decided it was good enough for this year.  Maybe at some point, we will figure out how to make the life we had in Ukraine mesh with the life we are now living in Chicago.  And when it does, the tree that I put up that Christmas will be stunning an complete.


Entry filed under: Down syndrome, Family, Uncategorized.

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Sergei  |  December 3, 2007 at 2:47 am

    I miss our life in Kiev… I miss going downtown around New Year’s to see all the dressed-up characters ready to take a picture with impressionable toddlers. Teletubbies flipping their huge helmits back to smoke a cigarette… Precious moments.


  • 2. Amy  |  December 5, 2007 at 5:49 pm

    AWWW I sorry you are still having a hard time!! I wish we lived closer so we could get together more often… i miss you guys!! rylee still talks about our girls!!
    we only live 3 1/2 hours away now so at least it is closer! we must get together soon!
    hugs and happy holidays!!

  • 3. Squashcanard  |  December 9, 2007 at 3:42 pm

    Hi Gill, I love your work and I appreciate all that you gave up to make a better Polly. I remember my first Christmas as a new bride in England we had to celebrate 2 days before cause dad had to work and we did in grand style we opened presents alone and we went to see friends who were too busy to celebrate with us. Then on the DAY Karl went to work and I tought I could make it, you see they would have TV on all day and that was an exception. I sat in front of the TV with my cold sandwiches and watched old movies all day and cried. I cried all day and when Karl got home well after to dark we went to bed in the cold icey bedroom for we had not heat. I was tired from crying and he was tired from working and the day was done Thank God. But to let you know our tree only had ornaments and those were the bright shinning kind from the BX so with noe other things we put the tree in fornt of the fireplace and with a mrror behind it did actually glow if you stood in the irght spot in the parlor. We love you all and all you are working for and we hope that you are able to keep up with the pace you have set for yourselves. We do honestly respect and understand your big efforts for your children. Love you all so much Mom

  • 4. jennifergg  |  December 9, 2007 at 3:57 pm

    What a beautiful post, so honest and full of truth and full too of life, of hopes and dreams, for yourself and your children and your life.

    I’m glad you have a tree you like, one with room for the future. And I wish you all a Merry Christmas!


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