Sunday, December 6, 2009

the company party

On Friday evening I was part of the Asbury International Community Christmas party. The room was filled with kids and parents and smiles ... almost everyone of international flavor, and lots of excitement. Our MC, Stanley, is great - drawing the kids in and getting them all calling back to him. Different groups perform music - the Koreans, Indians and Indonesians. My personal favorite is a group of little Korean kids holding candles and wearing reindeer antlers, doing a choreographed song/ dance. I think they are going to set themselves on fire a couple times... a bit breathless, but remarkable and charming.

Then gifts! Members of the seminary community have participated - choosing one child and providing a wrapped gift according to what the parents or child has suggested. Because of this generosity, every international kid - from babies right up to teens - receives a gift, something appropriate and possibly desired (we hope.) Volunteers in Santa hats with candy canes call out names and the eager child runs up to receive a box, many of them large, wrapped in bright colors. The whole affair is grin making. (The juxtaposition of symbols was amusing.)

As I sit and watch the gift giving, a flood of childhood memories washes over me. In this season my father works at Dofasco Steel Mills. We are a large lower income family who don't do all that well at celebrating and our Christmas gifts are scant, for the most part. But there comes an interruption in our plodding days when the company holds its annual Christmas event. This is what I remember:

A huge room, kind of like a warehouse, with tables covered in white paper. Some plastic Christmas plants. I think there may have been food.
A man with a microphone talks too loud, and tries to get everyone excited. Kids are yelling. I wish he would stop talking so Santa could come.
Carols are sung ... no, not carols - songs about Frosty and Santa and Jingling Bells. I don't sing. I just sit, anxious. Waiting.
Then the loud ho ho ho of Santa - I know it isn't a real Santa, but I know he brings the gifts and that is what interests me.


Ages are called - and kids line up. Hoards of kids.
"Five year old girls." Every one is getting the same gift. Wrapped. I watch the pile go down as I stand in line hoping there will be one for me. I am very excited. And afraid.
... of note, every gift is BIG. Someone knows kids. There is none of the "treasures in small packages" nonsense.
The gifts are Big. Big dolls. Big trucks. Big paint sets.
My gift is big. I carry it back to the table where my mother sits.

These are the biggest and brightest gifts I will ever get at Christmas. I LOVE IT.

I don't really remember what any of them were. I think what I loved was the hullabuloo - the possibility of what was in that big box. Carrying it back to the table in my possession.

And last night at the International Christmas party I remembered those parties for the first time in decades, and I smiled. Something about gifts. We can frown all we want on the ideas of commercialism and excess. But a gift is a great thing. A truly great thing.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing Marilyn. Here is to all the families who don't have much! I want to be aware of them in new ways. Here is to the cheesy Christmas parties that make some kids holiday! May I no longer poo poo them!