On Christmas day last year, I was smiling. I didn’t expect to be smiling.
My Christmas season, up until that day, was nothing like a Hallmark greeting card.
A couple of weeks before Christmas, the man I loved very much and I parted ways. I missed him a lot but that was the way it went.
Also, as a cash-strapped student, I was feeling sorry for myself because I kept seeing perfect gifts for my family and friends, but I couldn’t afford to buy them.
To make things even less like a celebrity-family Christmas special, on Christmas Eve my family had a huge falling-out, complete with yelling, car-door slamming and the ever-so-tense silent treatment that was going to last for days and maybe even months.
It wasn’t looking good last Christmas. Nope, not at all. In fact, it was looking pretty grim.
But everything changed on Christmas Day. That was the day that three guys proposed to me. Yes, three. And contrary to the Christmas ads on television, they didn’t offer me a Lazar diamond, they didn’t stare at me longingly beside a mammoth-sized Christmas tree bursting with presents and they didn’t buy me a car, a house or even a box of chocolates to coax me into deciding.
They were just three guys, with a couple of teeth between them, chapped hands, ripped coats, weathered faces and black fingernails.
It all happened while I was working at the Ottawa Mission serving Christmas turkey to the homeless. As I was placing plates of turkey and all the trimmings in front of the many people seated at their tables, suddenly one guy yelled out, “Are you taken? Cauth I’d really like to marry you,” and another two guys joined in on the bid.
Maybe they were drunk, maybe I was the first non-street woman who had looked them in the eyes for a while or maybe they could sense what I needed, and they gave it to me. I’ll never know. But whatever it was, it made me smile. It made me feel wanted, and it made me forget all my silly expectations for that one day.
Christmas is a strange time.
Everywhere we go, sentimental Christmas songs keep insisting that we must have a huge happy family, a million friends and a perfectly-perfect romance for those 24 hours.
All the stores are smelling like cinnamon and glittering with trinkets while greedy cash registers laugh out loud with a ringing sound each time someone flashes their credit card.
Movie screens, shopping malls and advertisements demand that it’s a magical day where every wish is granted and every dream comes true!
But for a lot of us in our real lives, Christmas is just another day. The sun comes up and the sun goes down and then it’s over. It can be more than that, but not “only” because of how much we spend, how big and happy our family is or if we’re in love.
I think it can be more than that if we see what we have and if we can make someone else feel noticed and wanted.
I didn’t marry those three homeless guys, but I’ll know where to find them if I’m feeling disappointed this Christmas.
There’ll be dozens of them waiting at the Mission and sitting at a plain round table with paper napkins with no other present to give me but a smile.
I’m starting to think that that’s all the comfort and joy I really need to get through this Christmas.
Isabella Mindak is a writer and journalist.