When I was 9 years old, I woke up before the rest of my family on Christmas morning to take a sneak peek at the gifts. I remember my sense of wonder as I tiptoed down the staircase. The fireplace still gave off a slight glow from the raging fire on Christmas Eve. Lights twinkled on the tree. My Santa mother had followed our family tradition and placed some gifts under the tree and others unwrapped by our stockings, which were spread out on a couch or chair. Each child had their spot. It appeared to be the perfect Egan family Christmas.
And then I saw it. Prominently displayed by my sister's stocking was the gift I wanted more than anything else: an authentic Mickey Mouse watch. I looked at her designated spot on the couch and then looked at mine. No Mickey Mouse watch for me. It must be a mistake I reasoned. My sister never said one thing about wanting the Disney-created watch. But there it was for all to see — my sister got the treasured watch and I didn't. I returned to my room teary and disappointed.
As I laid in bed waiting for others to wake up, my sense of loss compounded. I decided my mother must have deemed me too young for such an expensive gift. I would have to wait another year or two. Thoughts flooded my mind. I loved my sister; she loved me. Perhaps, she would share the watch. Christmas wasn't about presents anyway. Ours was a happy home. My dear mother loved me; maybe she just forgot. I could carry on.
When it was time to share presents as a family, I didn't say a word about my disappointment. I hid my feelings and forced a smile even though I hurt inside. I thanked my mom for the other gifts and shared my love with my family.
After about 45 minutes of emptying stockings, exchanging gifts, stoking the fire, and eating chocolate orange sticks, I discovered one more small gift for me tucked under the tree. It was a small box with a bow. The tag said "From Santa" in my mother's handwriting. It did not even occur to me that it would be my hoped for watch.
When I opened it up and saw Mickey's little white gloves and oversized yellow shoes, my heart jumped out of my chest. It was perfect. It was the smaller version of the popular watch, which I liked better than my sister's larger watch face. I loved how it ticked when I turned the knob and it looked just right on my thin left arm.
The gift touched me in a way that is hard to explain. It was a small thing, but that Christmas, at that time, it meant the world to me. To this day this it is my favorite childhood Christmas memory.
Looking back, my Mickey Mouse watch Christmas taught me simple truths we should remember during the holiday season.
The first is not to covet and compare — especially with family members. Each of us has our own path. We will always find lesser and always find greater. Be strong in who you are. Believe in yourself.
The second truth is equally important. Be patient in all aspects of life. Submit yourself to the careful process of time. Learn from it. Lean into it. Let patience do her "perfect work." Forbearance really does make for a better life.
And finally, never stop believing in those who love you. My angel mother knew me. She knew I was old enough for that watch. She treated it like the treasure it was and wrapped it beautifully.
Take a moment this holiday season and rekindle a favorite childhood Christmas memory. Piece together the details and consider a lesson learned. Remember, there is no sense in comparing or coveting, patience makes life better, and never stop believing in people who love you.
Merry Christmas, everyone.