Gazing upward I watched the window above our bed, as the bushes just on the other side scratched & tapped against the pane of glass. The wind made a light howling moan that normally would have caused me to drift off into a deep sleep. However, not this night – for on this night I was consumed with the excitement and anticipation that went far beyond my 6 year old ability to control. I stood on the tip of my toes in the bed for what must have been the 10th time. My hands and face pressed eagerly against the glass as I strained to look as far as I could to the left and as far as I could to the right. The cold felt so good against my skin as the faint smell of chimney smoke made its way from outside the window into my nostrils. I was fascinated with the prints created by the heat radiating from my tiny hands as they remained against the glass. Likewise I would watch with endless amazement, as the fog caused by my breath, would appear and then disappear. It was all just too much to take in: With my heart pounding and my mind racing, it was then that I heard her – my older sister… “Rebecca!!” she said, “Lay down! He won’t come at all unless you go to sleep.” Realizing that she was right… there were after all, rules that had to be followed! It was all I needed to hear. Quickly I slid back under the covers, pulling them up tightly beneath my chin, trying desperately to make myself sleep. But it was SO hard! What would be there when I woke up? Would it be the gift I wanted? Could it be even better than what I wanted? You see tonight was the single most important night in the history of the whole world – for tonight was the night that Santa would come!!!
Everything about Christmas made me happy. Watching all the things my mom did leading up to that day was nothing short of amazing! Our home would be filled with the smell of cinnamon and apple cider. She would decorate each room with various holiday items, strategically placing the “Christmas Mouse” for my sister & me to try and search out. Every room would possess in it a sweet aroma, as she prepared with love, various snacks of all sorts – including chocolate fudge, peanut brittle and my all time favorite – Buttermilk Fudge! It was absolutely melt in your mouth good! Going out with my dad and my sister to find that, “just right” Christmas tree was always a wonderful adventure. I loved holding his hand as we walked, with the smell of pine filling the air around us. It created a feeling within me, that everything about life in that moment was good. I can remember my dad laughing as we would agonize over which tree was the “perfect” tree. Upon arriving home we would begin the best part of all – DECORATING! Daddy would first put the lights on the tree. Waiting for him to finish was next to impossible. Once we got the “go ahead” my sister and I would then delicately take each ornament, (many of which represented years of history in our family), and search out the best place for them to hang. The finishing touch would be the tensile that we got to spread all over the tree. Once this was done mom would put the star on top and we would turn everything off but the tree lights. The way the light reflected off the tinsel & metallic glass ornaments into the room was like magic! With each passing day, there would be more mystery and amazement as new presents would appear both under or actually in the tree, just waiting to be found. The week leading up to Christmas meant being out of school, playing all day and watching Christmas shows at night like “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer”; “Miracle on 34th Street” &“Frosty the Snow Man” to name a few. But the best part of all was sneaking over to that magical tree when no one was watching, to touch and shake the beautifully wrapped presents that bore my name!
Looking back on these memories causes my mind to wander. The past is funny isn’t it? Memories from so long ago, yet flooding back into my consciousness as if they just happened. Another memory that comes to me is of my very first 12-step meeting. I was taken from the hospital to the church it was held in. Waiting by the door for our driver to take us in, overcome by feelings of both excitement & trepidation, I peered through the window, looking around as much as I could. With a rush of emotion my heart began pounding, my mind racing; I turned to go and then heard him, “Alright folks! Let’s head in!” I did NOT want to go in and had made a feeble attempt to stand my ground. He leaned down to me and said, “There are actions you will have to take if you want to live. Many wonderful things lie ahead of you, but you will not be able to get them unless you take the first step.” Deep inside of me I knew that what he said was the truth and I desperately wanted those “wonderful things” that he mentioned.
Entering into the basement of that church, the aroma of coffee and cookies filled the air. As we were shown our seats I watched all the different people who were performing various jobs. It was amazing to see because they all just seemed so…happy. Throughout the meeting I heard people share about where they had come from, what they were going through and all the things that were changing in their life. My heart began pounding and my mind racing, however this time for a different reason. I wanted what they had. I thought, “Will it happen for me?”, “Would it be the life I desired to have?”, “Could it be even better than I hoped for?” You see this night was the single most important night in the history of the whole world – for on this night I would begin the journey into a new life that I could not even begin to fathom. As that first meeting came to a close, everyone got in a circle & held hands. Within myself I was filled with a feeling of warmth, and everything about life in that moment was good.
With newly found vigor and zeal I approached treatment and recovery. I wanted it so much! It was all I could think about. I got a sponsor and wanted everything to happen fast! Waiting for her to give me step work was next to impossible. With each passing day there was more mystery & amazement as new truths were revealed while still others were just waiting to be found. But the best part of all came when I was given my medallion – The one I had touched so many times when I thought no one was looking. It represented something I could not have grasped in the beginning… that of a gift freely given to those who would have it and the promise of a new and amazing life.
Rebecca Balko © 2009-2013