Christmas morning was always exciting and very chaotic, with so many children in our family. One of the most memorable Christmases for me was when I was eleven years old, the oldest of five children.
That morning we all got up early, as was our practice, and waited (not so patiently) for Nana and Gram to come driving up so we could run into the living room and see what was there for us. The boys gathered in the girl’s bedroom so we could all watch out the window, looking for those headlights coming up the hill and turning into our drive. We were not allowed in the living room until Nana and Gram were settled in the house. They were scheduled to arrive at 7 a.m. but they weren’t usually exactly on time. When we finally saw them coming, we were screaming with excitement.
This particular Christmas all four of we older children were given a present each. All of the gifts were the same shape although not all the same size. It kind of looked like a shoe box. Shoes? Is that what they bought us? That wasn’t exactly on the list. I was thinking to myself act happy, Sharlyn. Be thankful. Show excitement. There will surely be something else besides shoes.
Knowing now how difficult it was for my parents to keep us all in shoes, that would have been a good present. But instead of shoes, we all opened our boxes at the same time, to find a pair of ice skates! The boys’ skates were black and the girls were white. They all laced up high to give good ankle support, and the nickel-plated steel blades were clean and shiny. The lining inside my skates was pink and soft, and was designed to keep my feet warm.
After all the presents had been unwrapped and we had eaten breakfast, everyone except for my one year old baby sister, and my mom and I, headed down to the pond to try out the new skates. Mom was cleaning up the dishes and … me? Well, I was trying to find something to wear. Something that looked the part – a flowing skirt and a pretty jacket and some tights. I loved to watch ice skaters – especially those women who did figure skating or the couples who danced on the ice. I was just sure that I was going to get out there and start twirling, my skirt flaring out around me. At last! I just knew it – this would be the sport for me! I wasn’t too good at any others, nor was I interested in any other sport.
Finding something cool to wear just wasn’t going quite right, however, and it was taking me a very long time. Finally, my mom came into my room, surprised to see me still not dressed.
“What in the world are you doing?” She asked. “Why aren’t you down at the pond with everyone else, trying out your skates?”
“I’m looking for something pretty to skate in,” I told her. “Something flowy like a skirt. Like a real ice skater would wear.”
My mother actually rolled her eyes. She wasn’t very good at hiding her expression when she thought I had a crazy idea.
“You just need to dress very warm, in lots of layers,” she said. “It’s extremely cold out there today. In fact, I’m looking for everyone to come back up here soon to warm up. You’d better get down there now.”
So, I put on my winter pants and shirts and everything I could to stay warm. Which actually didn’t work. My mother was right – it was bitter cold out there, especially on the ice.
When I joined the others, I discovered that the pond had frozen over in wavy swirls from the wind blowing. I tried and tried but no matter how much effort I gave it, I could not skate. It was too rough. But it wasn’t just that. I could not keep my ankles from folding in. I couldn’t even stand on those skates! And there was my brother, David, just two years younger than me, skating around on the ice like the pro I dreamed of being! It was so humiliating and disappointing.
I actually never did get the hang of ice skating, even on smooth ice at a skating rink. My ankles were always too weak. I finally gave up that dream and decided there just wasn’t a sport for me. I guess God gave me other special gifts, but being athletic was not one of them.
That Christmas day on the ice ended up being a lot of fun in spite of my failure. I swallowed my pride and sat on the sled while David skated around, pulling the sled with me on it.
There have been many times in my life when I was humbled by thinking I would be really good at something, just to end up admitting I wasn’t. But I’ve learned, just as I did that Christmas day so long ago, that if I can shrug it off and not be envious or bitter because someone else can do something better than me, the day can still be full of joy and fun and love.
May you have the grace to humbly acknowledge the areas where you might not be as great as you hoped to be. May you find pleasure in the many things that make you you. And may all your days be filled with blessings and love.
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