She stared at her herself in the mirror and rubbed her oversized belly. She closed her eyes and pulled off her wedding ring. My mother's swollen fingers squeezed into a tight ball and she released them when she saw me standing in the doorway. She explained she couldn't wear her wedding ring because she was pregnant and it was too tight. Then my mom rushed me out of the room to get ready for church.
It was a week before Christmas and our two bed-room apartment was decorated simply with a small tree and twinkling lights. As a five year old, life didn't get better than the smell of pine and the promise of presents.
When my family returned that night from church, the apartment door was dangling from the hinges. My father's face fell as soon as he realized we'd been robbed. The gifts my father worked three jobs to afford were stolen. The record player was stolen. The frozen turkey for Christmas dinner was stolen. My mother's wedding ring was stolen. The apartment was cleaned out.
Shortly thereafter, my mom delivered a baby girl and my parents brought her home in a bright, red stocking. We sat in an empty apartment with the buzz of traffic just outside the windows, our family taking turns holding the baby who smiled and cooed in the din of the twinkling lights from the tree.
This past weekend–decades after seeing her in a stocking–we celebrated my sister's birthday. There was a large tree in the living room with gifts underneath, and, yes, the smell of pine in the air.
As we sat around the table toasting how far our family has come, my dad reminded us that when had nothing, we had everything. Gifts, warm food, and holiday music didn't matter if we weren't surrounded by those we loved. We've learned to live with little and understand we had a lot.