I am beyond excited for this holiday season. Thanksgiving and Christmas had always been a sore spot for me as a child. They weren't really holiday's but reminders. Reminders of what life my family didn't have, the family dynamic we lacked and the overall feeling of being loved that we missed.
Then, when I felt like I could take no more a miracle happened; my siblings and I were placed in foster care.
Christmas in foster care was always hard. Our foster parents would give away our gifts or complain that we were only getting gifts because of pity. Yet, the thing that bothered me most was my family still had no family.
After 18 months in the foster care system parental rights of our biological parents were terminated and we were up for adoption. Instead of being separated and farmed out to various foster homes, the youngest possibly getting adopted, we were given a family.
My parents now, should have retired and moved on with life when their youngest of SEVEN was nearing the end of his senior year of high school. Instead, they decided to expand their family by adding 5 more children; my 4 younger siblings and myself.
I don't recall our first Thanksgiving or Christmas with them. We were not yet adopted and it didn't feel like we were an official family. There was still a chance that this "dream" could end very abruptly.
After our adoption finalized in 2004 I knew we were a family. There was no turning back, Kent and Shari Johnson were without a doubt Mom and Dad. They became the mom and dad my family had always deserved. They bought a new house, in a new town and we started fresh as a family.
We spent the summer and early fall working out in the lawn and making it our home. As much as us kids complained about the work it meant everything to us. Our first Thanksgiving I noticed the beautiful arrangements my mom had put on the table. My brother Karlin and his wife Sonya brought pies and rolls (by far the best rolls I've ever had), Kaylan and Natalie were there also. I watched as she knitted a beautiful afghan. Karalee brought her baby girl Taleena who loved spending time with grandma. Kailee was there, my older sister that I idolized and looked up too. Everyone was making pie crusts, pies, parts of Thanksgiving dinner and the fire was roaring in the living room.
After dinner my mom was excited to put up Christmas decorations. We put the tree up, fluffed it (so there weren't ANY gaps), added all the beautiful made bows, bulbs and ribbons. The decorations for the walls came next. When we bought the Parma house and moved, she also bought an event calendar. Each year we got to hang ornaments according to the day. I tried to act like it wasn't a big deal, after all I was teenager. But each year, December 24th, the night before my birthday, was saved for me. I always knew that Christmas Eve's ornament would be waiting in it's box for me to hang up and I looked forward to it every year.
Once Christmas day rolled around we were all up bright and early waiting to open our gifts. I remember very few of my gifts. I know that sounds horrible. After all, my parents had put much thought into each child. I remember, though, exactly how I felt on Christmas day. The joy, warmth and love which consumed me never faded through the years...those feelings only grew. The best gift my parents ever gave me was after our adoption when we were sealed. They don't know how much that day meant to me. Even more so, how it impacted my first Thanksgiving and Christmas as a Johnson.
Now, I have a family of my own. Hanging in our living room is that very event calendar that means so much to me. I wish more than anything we could go home for Thanksgiving and I could help put up the tree once more. I've missed it for so many years now. However, this year I have the blessing of creating memories with my children and husband. We'll make our own pies, turkey and Thanksgiving happiness. Afterwards we'll put up the tree, decorate it and wait patiently for December 1st. On the eve of December 1st we'll hang up that first ornament on our little calendar. And count down the days until we celebrate the joy, warmth and love that has created and protected our little family.