Christmases Past and Lots of Presents: My Holiday History

The holiday season is one of the most important times of the year when it comes to bringing families together. As an adoptee, Christmastime inevitably becomes a time of reminiscence. I have had the unique opportunity of celebrating Christmas with my foster family, my biological family, and my adoptive family. Each of these experiences has left their mark on me. During the holiday season, I cannot help but to reflect on each one. This Christmas, I’d like to share some of my holiday history starting with the first Christmas that I remember.

Christmases Past

Christmas of 2003 is the first one that I remember. I was 7 years old and it was my second year of being placed in foster care. My sister and I had dutifully filled out our lists with the same highly-coveted toy. We wanted the Gameboy Advance SP and nothing else, but our foster mother made no promises. The week before Christmas, we had an early celebration during one of our visits with our father in one of the cold and sterile rooms of the Department of Social Services. He had bought my sister and I huge puffy coats that we didn’t care for very much. To be fair, how much could you learn about what your daughters liked if you only spent a single cursory hour with them once every two weeks?

I preferred to be “home,” our warm and cozy apartment that was heavily dressed with Christmas decorations. I was glad to leave the visit and go back home, even if I hadn’t gotten the toy that I most wanted. The week passed and finally, it was Christmas day. I unwrapped my gifts, hastily. Finally, I found the Gameboy that I had asked for. It was even my favorite color; the brilliant red gleamed.

It wasn’t the game that made it one of the happiest Christmases that I remember. It was the excitement, the joy, and the genuine happiness that I and everyone around me felt. After the trauma I had gone through, it was the first time that I felt like a real kid on Christmas. My foster mother kept in contact with my sister and I long after we were placed back in the care of my biological father. She truly cared about us. She passed away a few weeks before I turned 13.

In 2006, I was celebrating Christmas with my biological family. My brother, sister, cousins, father, and step-parent were all living in a single home with 4 to a room. We did not decorate beyond a tree. Gifts were received through a local charity that had our family on its registries. Our gifts were placed into bins with our names on it, inside they had left the paper with information to go off of. Mine read “Davina – 10 years old. Girl. Clothing and books”. It was an impersonal exchange. Nothing stood out, except for an unsettling feeling that would not dislodge itself from the pit of my stomach. I still didn’t feel as if this was where I was meant to be. My instincts were right. It was the last Christmas that I would spend with my biological family.

Christmas Present

This year, I am celebrating Christmas with my adoptive family as I have done for the past 12 years. The faces have changed. Members have been added and lost throughout the years, but I am home. My adoptive father, Mike, remarked off-handedly, “This is the first year you’ve been genuinely excited for Christmas. It’s nice to see.” I’ve noticed the change, too. I had spent so many Christmases feeling as if I was detached from the celebrations. It has taken a long time, but I am finally secure enough to relish the celebrations with my family. I am lucky enough to have found that.

It has been 12 years since I last saw my mother. We have spoken only a handful of times including 5 years of radio silence. I have not heard or spoken to my father in 8 years. My siblings flit in and out of the picture, but we do not know each other anymore. My biological family doesn’t have a presence in my life. However, I have never missed them during the holidays. At this point, I have spent more holidays without them than with them. We do not send each other gifts or even simple holiday messages. Truthfully, I believe it is better that way. We will always be biologically related, but they are not the family that I am making memories with.

These days, I live at home with my adoptive family. I play with my niece and nephew and help them build gingerbread houses. On Christmas Eve, I unsuccessfully campaign for us to open all of the gifts that night. I am the first one up on Christmas morning. I take a moment to appreciate the house that is now my home. I wait for the sound of footsteps on the floor above me while envisioning the mess of wrapping paper and boxes that will come. I am genuinely happy, but more than that, I feel the security of having found a family and a home that will always be mine. It is an incomparable feeling.

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