Green Blanket This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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As I stood in the December checkout line, glancing at yet another magazine portraying a Hollywood gossip story, my ears drifted to a conversation in front of me. The woman must have been in her mid-thirties, but her stressed appearance added at least five years. I moved closer, pretending to be absorbed in the gum flavors.

As she vented to the cashier, I learned the reason for her anxiety. She explained how she despised holiday time, which she associated with lines, family drama, and pressure to decorate and be jovial.

Pressure? I thought in disbelief, as my eyes meandered over the new Orbit gum collection. My heart ached for her; she clearly had a skewed view of the holidays. Unfortunately, she represents the thoughts of many people.

For parents, holidays are a major stressor. There is food to buy and special goodies to prepare. There are gatherings of extended family, which for some are not always enjoyable. Most of all, there is pressure to buy gifts with money that is not in the budget. And the gifts need to be impressive. Their kids can't be the ones who got ugly, half-price sweaters when everyone else got an Xbox. It sounds awful, but most of us have had friends ask, “What did you get for Christmas?”

As I tried to put myself in this woman's shoes, I understood what she meant by pressure. However, we have the choice to rise above the commercial stress of the holidays.

I can remember one Christmas when my family's budget was extremely tight. One of my brothers was on a church mission, which required that we skimp on nonessentials. The only wrapped gift I got that year was a fleece blanket. A plain, hunter green blanket. I tried to talk it up to my friends at school, making it seem like a really great gift, but it was no Xbox.

However, as the years have passed, that blanket has come to symbolize so much more. It was a gift of warmth. It warmed me on those rare cold Phoenix nights, but it also warmed me with love. My parents gave me something better than a fancy present; they gave me fun Christmas traditions, a firm sense of belonging, and the knowledge that true gifts are ones of service, love, and sacrifice. My parents were sacrificing their financial comfort for my brother's mission, but that never jeopardized the love they gave me and everyone around them.

I wish I could go back to that cafeteria table where my friends asked, “What did you get for Christmas?” I wish I could answer proudly, “I got a blanket – a blanket that warms me with the true love of this, the most wonderful time of year.”

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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