When my youngest son, Austin, was eight years old, he brought home a handmade Christmas present made especially for me at school. As we sat down together to open it, I noticed he lacked his usual excited grin and anticipatory squirm as I began unwrapping the gift. Instead, he looked slightly forlorn and a little sad.
As the custom wrapping job, which was more scotch-tape than paper, fell away, it revealed a five-inch, slightly unstable snowman made from a bean-filled white sock with two rubber bands strategically placed to form the ascending "snowballs." It had two thin twigs hot-glued for arms along with bright blue buttons down the middle. Its eyes were small black beads with smaller ones outlining its smile and a perfect clove with a long stem for a nose. Prominently perched on its head was a crumpled black felt hat with a band of red and gold ribbon.
It was utterly adorable... and it was about to become one of my most cherished motherhood Christmas memories.
"Oh, I LOVE it, Austin!"
"Yeah. But it's just not the best."
"Why? What do you mean? What's not 'the best' about it?"
Austin proceeded to tell me the hats for the snowmen had been sewn for and given to the class by a mother. They were all different and, to be fair, had been put into lottery for each student to select. All year, students had been earning "points" for excellent work, completed homework assignments, and general good behavior. In the lottery, along with the snowman hats were other items like toys and games which each student could also "purchase" for themselves with their points.
Austin described how he had carefully searched through all the small felt hats picking out what he called, "the very, very, VERY best one!" ... a perfect one according to everyone in the class. And, without spending any on toys for himself, he used all his points to purchase that perfect hat for my snowman.
With tears in his eyes he said, "...and I'm sorry, Mom, but you didn't get that hat. It was so perfect. Instead you got that messed up, crumpled black one 'cause I guess Chelsea also wanted that perfect one as much as me but I bought it first and she wanted it so bad she cried all day long every time she saw it sitting on my snowman... And... well... before we went home... I just gave it to her so she wouldn't cry anymore. And now you have that stupid-looking one."
A warm glow spread over my body as I looked down at the snowman teetering in my hand wearing the dumpy, crumpled hat, knowing every year in the future when I unpacked it, I would always see the perfect meaning of Christmas when I looked at the imperfect little hat. And I do.
Austin is now a 21-year-old college student and, I hope, is developing into a young man who would still give as thoughtfully and as freely. The snowman sits on my kitchen window sill every Christmas, looking no worse for the wear, reminding me that giving, receiving, loving, sharing, and remembering are what Christmas is really all about.
I love what Christmas stands for and I LOVE my snowman with the crumpled hat. I also love what I get to do as a profession, much of it from the comfort of my home office or visiting some interesting spot on the globe. And I love the people with whom I get to do my work: clients, teams, meeting planners, consultants, speakers, passionate individuals of every walk, creed, and culture as well as my fabulous sponsors like Care Credit and 1-800-Dentist and of course, my wonderful business manager and "deliberate co-creator," Vanessa Emerson. I am truly one lucky, lucky girl.
If you receive this Monday Morning Stretch, our paths have intersected in some way and I'll take this opportunity to say thank you for the opportunity to share my thoughts and musings with you each week and to wish you and yours a very merry Christmas, happy Chanukah, and blessed holiday season!
Until next year... Cheers!