My First Christmas Memory
I regret to inform you, Dear Reader, that D1’s memory is improving. Sure, you might be thinking, “Wait…don’t you want her to have a good memory?” Not really. You see, distraction has been my favorite tool in my parenting toolbox but it has now been rendered ineffective. For example, a year ago my daughter would constantly ask if I would buy her something and whenever she did, I told her I’d buy it for her when she got bigger. Case closed. If she saw me eating chocolate, I’d tell her she can have it tomorrow and of course, she forgot about it the next day. By the way, there’s no such thing as sneaking candy or treats when you have kids – they have a 6th sense for sugar.
But now? She remembers. Everything. “Appa, you said I could have chocolate today. Can I have it, please?” “Appa, you said you would buy this for me when I was bigger…am I bigger now?” So with deep sorrow, I’m putting away my distraction tool. For now.
Her improved memory also means that these moments we share, could potentially make up her childhood
scars memories. So this year could be her very first Christmas memories. Which got me thinking about my very first Christmas memory.
My family immigrated to the States when I was 4. After living with my uncle and his family for a year (4 adults, a 4yo, 2-2yos, and 1 infant in a 2 bedroom apartment), we moved into our own apartment. I have a lot of memories of that year but I can’t recall anything particularly Christmas-y.
The next year, I started kindergarten and of course I learned all about Christmas and Santa Claus from school. I learned that he came down your chimney and gave you presents, which sounded absolutely awesome. Except, we didn’t have a chimney. I asked my mom how Santa would come give me my presents since we don’t have a chimney and she told me that Santa has the keys to all the apartments of all the good kids.
The thought of a fat, bearded white man having the keys to my apartment freaked me out. But since he was white, I figured he’d be like all the other white kids in my school who thought I was A) Chinese and as a result I must B) know karate, and I could scare him off by simply saying, “My dad is Bruce Lee ya know.”
Anywho, my sister and I went to bed the night before Christmas, eagerly awaiting to see what gifts we would get. Other kids told me how they would get action figures, toy cars, and all kinds of other cool stuff from Santa Claus, stuff a poor, immigrant family couldn’t really afford.
The next morning, my sister and I ran to our little tiny tree and found candy, probably 10 items or so, for each of us. And the candy was marked with 7-11 price tags. At that moment, I knew in my little 5-year-old soul that there was no Santa Claus, and was relieved to know that the fat man didn’t have the keys to my apartment. And I also realized that my mom and dad went out after my sister and I were fast asleep and spent their hard-earned money to make their kids happy. My sister turned to me and said, “Isn’t Santa great, oppa? (oppa is the Korean word for girls when addressing an older boy)” “Yeah,” I replied, “He really is.” That sequence probably didn’t happen, but it sounds so Hallmark Christmas-y with it in, wouldn’t you agree?
I didn’t get a toy car or a cool action figure, and in fact, when I told my friends at school that I got candy from 7-11 from Santa, many of them laughed. But I remember feeling so loved by my parents.
Reflecting on it now, I can’t imagine what it must’ve been like for my parents. Being in a new country and adapting to new, commercial holidays was quite the culture shock, especially since they were struggling just to get by. And it also explains my unending affinity and affection for 7-11.
Santa did eventually give us better gifts (I never spoiled it for my sister), but nothing will replace that first memory of knowing that my mom and dad loved me and my sister so much that they’d use what little money they had to make their kids happy. And who can forget knowing that the fat man doesn’t have the keys to the apartment.
I’m not sure what memories D1 and D2 will hold on to as they grow up and become adults, but my prayer is that their first Christmas memories are just like mine: that mommy and daddy love them.
What’s your first Christmas memory? What do you wish for your kids this year?