do you have a relative who sends you a little som’somthin’ every holiday?
just a small thing that sends love and says ‘i care’.
perhaps it is the same thing every year, like a holiday card, for example.
when you were little, you didn’t know it, but a tradition was being built.
every year you would get this little thing in the mail for christmas.
even into adulthood.
it becomes expected, and celebrated.
there are minor changes each year, and you always wonder what they might be.
for me, that special something ships from yelm, washington.
and aunt donna and uncle george are the masterminds.
it’s life savers.
the holiday pack of life savers.
there are about 4 packs or various flavors (my favorite is the buttered run)
inside of a pack that tells a fun holiday tale.
what is so special about the life savers is that they never stopped coming.
after being diagnosed with type 1 right after christmas,
my aunt and uncle had an entire year to decide wether or not it was an ‘appropriate’ gift to send to me
i still don’t know if they ever called my parents to ask about it, OR if it ever crossed their minds.
what i do know is that i was dreading the thought of being left out.
i was literally sweating opening up that package;
hoping with all my might that i wasn’t going to be told by my semi-distant relatives that i wasn’t allowed to live life like everyone else.
tearing back the paper slowly,
becoming more and more fearful.
i already knew my stocking wasn’t full of reese’s peanut butter cups in a big plastic candy-cane shaped container like they had been every year previous.
i already knew this year would be different than any other christmas.
but to my surprise,
the first wrapped wonder in the box had my name on it, and it was the size, shape, and weight of a life saver box.
i was ecstatic.
i got to be heather, and not heather with diabetes.
it was the most beautiful affirmation of my humanhood taking precedence over my pathology
those life savers showed me that
diabetes didn’t mean the end of tradition
certainly not one that i treasured and looked forward to every year
i started getting life savers at 6 years old.
i was diagnosed with diabetes at eleven.
this year marks 17 years of tradition
simple tradition that carries many complex emotional progressions
17 years of life saving life savers
17 gestures of love and care.
i didn’t say thank you to my aunt and uncle for making that decision
the decision to choose me first before my disease
the decision to take away one opportunity for limitation
i didn’t say thank you until this christmas.
until i realised how important it was to me every year since.
it’s now been 12 years.
i feel more like a whole person every time i see that wrapped wonder,
that life saver shaped box sitting under the tree.
it’s my breath of fresh air
my reminder to BE me first because that’s how it should be.
so merry christmas, my friends,
may your day be filled with little reminders that your personhood precedes your pathology.
it doesn’t always feel that that,
but it should
especially around the holidays.