A Christmas Story

The_little_prince The year before I came to the US, I was working two jobs while attending University — getting ready for class and keeping up with exams, then for job number one after getting back on the train, and going to job number two on weekends.

My days were optimized for sure.

Part of my income was contributing to living expenses — rent with my mother, food, train tickets for school, and, if there was any left, books. Usually I traded my notes from class with other students who could not attend in exchange for borrowing the books I needed to prepare for exams.

A very small portion of my earnings was going into a fund for my trip to the US. Really, I was too busy to worry about barely scraping by, and we had fun with family and friends — always. To me those gatherings for tea on a Saturday afternoon, or meetings at the park, were just perfectly good times.

That last official Christmas at home* though was hard, because I knew I was moving away.

In winter it is unusually cold and damp in my neck of the woods, apartments are drafty, and with our meager resources, we pulled together a small tree with lights and a nativity scene — all very simple, to us it felt so festive.

I remember we had bought little gifts for each other, which we put under the tree for opening after the midnight Mass. They don't even have them anymore in the US. It was a family tradition for years when I lived in Italy. After the moments of community meditation, it was an even greater joy to share a hot cup of chocolate back home while unwrapping our little gifts.

To my surprise I had an additional small package under the tree. It was from a long time friend who managed to get it to my mother in time. It was a music cassette — remember those? It kept me company from that instant and for years.

It reminded me that kind gestures don't need to be big to make an impact. It inspired me to be even more resilient in the face of doubt, often my own. It taught me to stay in touch with the people who have touched my life in some way, because I could never know when that connection would come to fruition. It delivered a very important message — that having no expectations holds the most gratifying rewards.

* It took twenty years to have a Christmas with my whole family again.

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0 responses to “A Christmas Story”

  1. Twenty years! Wow, that’s a long time. Though, come to think of it, it’s been at least a decade, if not more, since I’ve had Christmas with my whole family, and it definitely hasn’t happened since I got married.
    That’s a lovely story, Valeria. Thank you for sharing it with us. It really is the little things that count, isn’t it?
    Merry Christmas to you and yours.

  2. Thank you for sharing. Our house can relate to your Christmas story.
    People get wrapped up in giving the most expensive or the biggest or many gifts when often the best gift is simple with meaning coming from the heart.
    Buon Natale!

  3. What Christmas is all about — people and stories. Thank you for sharing your story, Valeria. It touched me and reminds what is important — the joy we get from our relationships. It is that simple. Wishing you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

  4. What a wonderful story Valeria filled with fabulous memories that sustain us in tough times. I have always also had a fondness for the messages in The Little Prince so was intrigued by your picture.
    Midnight Mass was a tradition in our house as well and if I still lived in my hometown would be for my children. The combination of prayer,song and celebration really started the holiday right. I hope that’s one piece of Italy you can still find in the US. I know my home church still has a service…if I was there I would join the singing of Silent Night to candlelight.
    Merry Christmas!

  5. Merry Christmas to all. I’m glad the story kept you company. Technology can assist in bringing people who are far away closer together. A real hug is still the best hug though.
    @Shonali – while in the past I accepted that there wasn’t time to go back and visit with family, I have made it a point to do it every year. Life has a way of making decisions for you, if you let it. It is about the little things that happen naturally, if we let them.
    @Ann Marie – thank you for saying it in Italian. Little things matter. People will forget what you do and what you say, they will remember how you make them feel. A lesson I carry with me in business every day.
    @Rayna – I have a superb teacher in my mother for these kinds of things. She’s so good about being gratifying with people. And that makes it easy to love her. An example for sure.
    @Mary – indeed, the word inspiration has its root in Latin “in spiritus”, the energy we draw from being part of a true community of people coming together to celebrate is what I love about humanity.

  6. You know that I am italian as well, and I used to love those little traditions you mention. I have been lucky in my life, I “had it easy” for the most part, but I kinda miss those traditions, not because I moved like you did, but mostly because… how can I say, I guess good times come to an end, most of the times. Probably it should be up to me to do my best to keep them up and not just fall prey of the easy saying “I can’t do anything about it”. Perhaps we all can.

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