Ever since I was a little girl, giving gifts has always been my favorite part of Christmas.
And, not to toot my own horn, or rather — ring my own jingle bell —
But I’m pretty darn good at it.
Let’s just say I’d give the elves a run for their money.
And I’m not talking about some coupon book for free hugs and foot rubs. Nah. That’s amateur. I’m talking about turning a paper grocery bag into a “juke box” as a youngin’ and then giving each member of my family a “record” to play.
And then there was the year during the Michelle Kwan era that I choreographed a *roller* skating masterpiece to My Heart Will Go On, and rolled the rug back and performed it in the foyer. Complete with a Ribbon Dancer and a twirling skirt.
I may not have had cash money to spend as a kid, but damn, could I give a heartfelt gift.
And I promise there’s a point to this.
I find a quiet time, and I just sit and look at a picture of each person I’m giving a gift to. I just look at them. For about 5 minutes or so. Until it just…I don’t know…comes to me.
And well, here it is December 19, and I am just now getting around to shopping.
So this weekend, I found myself sitting and looking at photos of all the members of my family. And I finally came to my little three year old niece. We’ll call her A.
This kid. I mean, I wish I could put a picture of her on here, because she is the most beautiful little girl you’ve ever seen. White blond hair. Crystal blue eyes. I mean, my brother better stay fit because he’s going to be beating the boys away with sticks when she gets older.
But I digress.
I was sitting, looking at the photo of my niece, and it was this hauntingly beautiful photo where she’s kneeling down in a creek by some rocks, and just looking up at the camera, and her eyes, so wide and innocent, just piercing my heart.
And as I write this, a lump is swelling up in my throat because I miss her so incredibly much, and wish I could be more present in her life…
But I just couldn’t shake those eyes.
The way my little niece looks at me…I’m her Aunt Dooga. (Don’t ask.) I’m the fun aunt that comes around sometimes that makes her laugh and has crazy dance parties and has a weird affinity for butternut squash ice cream.
And then it hit me. One day, when she gets older, I’m going to have to tell her about my history of anorexia. She’s going to look at her parent’s wedding photos and want to know what’s going on with Dooga? Why does she look so scary? Why was her skin so grey? Why didn’t she have any hair?
And that’s when it will happen. When that only-good, positive image she has of me in her sweet little mind is going to come crashing down. And I will disappoint her. Deeply.
Dooga’s not the put together aunt from NYC that is fun and happy and silly. But the girl with the secret past. The broken past. The past that scares her.
And it’s at that moment that I will forever be different in her beautiful blue eyes.
Will she forgive me? Will she ever trust me again?
I’m still looking at her picture. So unknowingly looking up at me. Seeing me. Those eyes that piece to my soul, but don’t really know. Not yet.
And I pray in that moment that she never has to go though what I went through. That she never experience the veiled torture of an eating disorder.
And it got me thinking…if I could tell her one thing, what would it be? Because it seems that I’m a lot better at dishing out advice than taking my own to heart.
And it’s this…
Never forget how greatly loved and treasured you are. If you win scholarships or prizes, or fall short or mess up…you are precious no matter what. And you are worth joy. And love. And peace. The world can be mean – people can say things that hurt, and people may disappoint you – and you may even disappoint yourself – but there is a goodness and beauty in you that cannot be tarnished. Because it is from God. So never forget…you are enough.
There will come a day when I share with her my past. And I trust that God will use that opportunity as a way to exemplify His forgiveness and mercy and glory. And even though I’m giving myself a hernia thinking about how that conversation is going to go, I trust that God will give me the words in that moment.
But that day, is not today. And now, it’s time for bed.
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