I’ve been sitting on this story for a while now. I mean, it would brush past my mind at times and leave no trace of it. It is like a hungover mind on a Monday morning, a head full of fragmented moments that you are unsure how it made you feel.
This is a story that traces back to when Christmas was all about a pine tree spruced up in balloons, cotton balls, ribbons, glittering balls (when we could afford it) and new clothes!
It was the winter of 2001 when my father still had a job in a private Christian body. Although my father traveled the Tangkhul region extensively, he would always make it home for Christmas with goodies for all of us. This was one of our most exciting time of the year- Christmas season + return from trips, who wouldn’t love it? Right?
It was exciting for three of us (me, brother and my younger sister), although my two big sisters couldn’t care less as they were in their teens by then.
Every time my father was done touring a particular region, he was required to report back in Imphal. It was during this return trips that he would always get something for us. He would get me and my sister play things like a set of kitchen utensils, shiny little lanterns, small rubber dolls and more. One of our favorites was the moreh edibles, all the way from Myanmar (haha)!
Well, this particular winter, the excitement was no different as our father left for Imphal. We (me and younger sister) were so curious and excited that we jumped when we saw him get off the Second Trip bus at around 3pm. We ran into the house gleaming at the big airbag he was carrying.
While we nibbled on the edibles from Litan (an eating junction between Ukhrul and Imphal), our parents started to unpack. They pulled out a big white sack from the bag. We were taken back because this wasn’t the usual routine, we had never got anything from out of a sack! Then they slowly unravelled what was inside, pulling out garments one after another. I have jaded memories of the clothes that came out of the sack, colourful waterproof jumpsuits (bought from the second-hand bazaar from Imphal). I think I got the green one with a pip and a pocket in front. There were pink, yellow, blue and maybe brown too.
My two older sisters never got around to wearing them but the three younger lots had no escape from that. That Christmas we had no glittering shoes or flowy dresses. All we had were the bright jumpsuits from the sack. (I guess that’s what happens when your family is trying to cut budget and the man decides to do the shopping). Oh, we still had a fresh pine tree dressed in cotton flakes and 50 paise balloons generously strewn over it. If I can remember it right, I think we showed our grumpy face and unsatisfied grunts over the jumpsuits. Little did we know that the sack of clothes was all that my parents could afford that winter.
We fuss when we get people gifts and they don’t thank us enough, and there we were, the five most ungrateful children with no courtesy to even say thank you. Thinking back, I now realise that it wasn’t just a sack full of clothes but a sack full of love. I try to put myself in their shoes and comprehend the terrible feeling of rejection, of wanting to give but not having enough, yet I always fail to.
I guess time teaches us over the years, the mistakes we commit and the amendments we must make. It’s amazing how things have changed for us. We have moved on from celebrating Christmas with a sack full of clothes to trying to buy gifts for each other from our own wishlist.
To this day when I begin to want things I do not need, I am always humbled by the Christmas we enjoyed out of a sack full of clothes.
If you have parents like ours, who in spite of not having enough still got us something, I hope you make them feel loved, wanted and contented this Christmas season. As for me, I am still repaying and will continue to repay the sack full of love from the Christmas of ’01.