It’s a Wonderful (and Memorable) Life

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Julia Currey Pedersen gives her children a Christmas of memories to never forget

My first Christmas as a single mother, I found myself extremely low on funds. Scratch that. There were no funds. I told my kids, “We are not going to do Christmas presents. We’ll just be together and have a good time.”

   On Christmas morning, my three teenagers Jacob, Lisa and Katherine came down the steps and there were tons of beautifully wrapped presents under the tree.

   They were not happy with me. They said, “Mom, this isn’t right! You shouldn’t spend money you don’t have.”

   Finally I told them, “It’s OK. Don’t worry. Let’s just sit down.”

   We took all of the presents and put them in front of each person. They each had nine or 10 presents.

   I said, “Lisa, I want you to go first.”

   I placed the presents strategically so the box on top was the one I wanted her to open first.

   Lisa opened her first present and said, “Oh! I had a journal just like this in sixth grade.” She looked closer, and it was the journal from sixth grade.

   I said to her, “Read us an entry.” She started to cry. And of course, I started to cry. We reminisced about the experience she shared from sixth grade.

   Then it was Jacob’s turn.

   I said, “Open that present first.” He opened the box and pulled out his blue triceratops stuffed animal, and he proceeded to share with us a story that I hadn’t heard before. He was scared at night because his bedroom had a large door that went directly into the “scary, dark, deep walk-in attic.” He would take all his stuffed animals and put them around his bed on the floor to create an invisible force shield to protect him at night from whatever might be in the attic.

   We laughed at how he used the dinosaur to protect him from a fear we didn’t realize he had.

   Then it was Katherine’s turn.

   One of the things in her pile of gifts was a soft cloth doll — but it wasn’t a baby girl doll. It was a boy doll.

   As a young girl she saw it and loved it and had to have it. She named it Baby Roger. So we talked about how at the time I purchased it originally, I didn’t know any little girls who had boy dolls, but she just loved her Baby Roger. We loved reliving that part of Katherine’s childhood.

   Years later, Lisa was going through boxes and again found Baby Roger. She gave it to Katherine whose boys can now play with the doll.

   On that memorable Christmas morning,

I didn’t have any gifts under the tree, but my gift was my gift of remembrance to my children. I wanted them to know that even though times were tough and our lives had changed drastically, we had wonderful times and wonderful memories together and that there would be new opportunities and good times ahead as well.

   We’ve all said throughout these years that it was the best Christmas ever, and yet no money was spent.

   It really is good to pause and reflect about what blessings and goodness have come to us even when we’re going through difficult times. That Christmas was a highlight of my life as a mother.

   In 1946, Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life” told the fictional story of George Bailey and the visit of an angel on Christmas Eve reminding him how wonderful his life is despite financial troubles.

   Julia Currey Pedersen, who now lives in Cedar Hills, faced a very real trouble on her first Christmas as a single mother in 1998. She had no budget for Christmas gifts for her three children, ages 18, 17 and 14. Instead of grieving, Julia spent Christmas Eve wrapping items for her children from the attic that represented cherished memories. A souvenir deck of cards for Jacob. A Sound of Music playbill for Lisa. A pair of worn soccer shoes for Katherine.

   The family spent Christmas morning opening up memories. It spurred gratitude for the past and ignited hope for the future.

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