This is Girl from the East’s third Christmas. She’s been alive for four observances, but in 2005 she was only a few weeks old and living in a land where Christmas is not celebrated.
Sometimes I try to image what she looked like as a newborn. Sometimes I try to imagine what her first December must have been like, without a family cuddling and adoring her. I hope it wasn’t too cold where she lived. I hope she wasn’t too lonely.
Thankfully we arrived that following autumn and carried her home in loving arms all the way to her first birthday cake. Soon after we scooped heaping spoonfuls of food into her mouth on her first Thanksgiving, and then set her in Santa’s lap for her first real Christmas. I think most of what she experienced on her first wave of holidays with us was overwhelming and incomprehensible.
But it also awakened something inside. Slowly afterward she began to unfold like a spring bud responding to the sun’s warmth. By Valentine’s Day she was walking and babbling and becoming the roly-poly baby she was meant to be. Is there any better gift for her or for us?
I have only one early picture of her, taken at two days old. The thumbnail-sized image is safely locked away and not for public consumption. It’s a grainy shot, taken quickly and from overhead, so that I barely recognize the girl she is today in that first image.
Much has changed over the course of three Christmases. This year she understood the simplest concepts of Christmas: the celebration of a birth; the giving and receiving of gifts; the decorating of a tree; and the pleasure of sharing the experience of a nuclear and extended family.
This year was the real charm for her. While it was a simple holiday by past standards, her joy at the smallest touches: frosting on a cookie, silly ornaments on the tree, hugging her new Care Bear, made all the worries of the everyday world wash away.