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I walked past these “tabletop trees” for sale the other day, and my heart was flooded with memories.

Visions of hot cocoa, warm blankets, and read-alouds of our favorite Christmas stories danced through my mind so vividly, I could almost hear “A Motown Christmas” playing in the background.

I remembered our little tree, perfectly perched on the coffee table of our apartment—our new (part-time) home with our mom after our parents’ divorce.

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I could sense my mom felt a bit discontent about our downsized Christmas, of which our little tree was an apt symbol. Maybe she had that nagging feeling so many parents know well—the yearning to somehow be able to “do more”—as she navigated the holidays following this major shift in our reality.

Our new tradition was to wake up on the 24th as if it were Christmas morning with my mom, then spend the 25th—“real Christmas”—with my dad. We even gave our Christmas with Mom a self-deprecating name to inject a bit of humor into our new normal.

But when I look back, I don’t see our little tree and simple gifts as lacking. Quite the opposite.

In her annual gifts of new pajamas, new undergarments, and a new book for each of us, I see intentionality, steadiness, and love. I close my eyes and see the care with which she wrapped each one. I remember the magic and sparkle and anticipation of our “Christmas Eve” every December 23rd. 

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Most of all, I remember a cozy sense of belonging—of “home”—my mom cultivated with her warmth and sweetness and love.

So if you’re marking an unwanted “first” this holiday season or feeling in any way inadequate, can I encourage you?

Whether they’re toddlers or tweens (like I was), your babies feel every ounce of the fierce love inside of you. That’s the magic—not the list of things you wish you could do for them this holiday season, but the love that wakes you up each morning and pushes you to simply try.

Whatever your energy level or resources are this season, it’s enough.

Your love for your babies is enough—it always has been.

And it’s what they’ll remember.

Trust me.

Originally published on the author’s Instagram

Ellie Hunja

Ellie is a mother of two (ages 7 & 3) who is passionate about her faith, racial justice, autism acceptance, and mental health. She believes that empathy and vulnerability can change the world, and that there is ALWAYS room for dessert. She shares about her journey to cultivate a life of purpose, authenticity, and joy on Facebook at @EllieHunjaWriter and Instagram at @elliehunja

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