I stopped in to pick up a few things at Oliver’s Market, a community-minded grocery store nearby. Just inside the door were two barrels: one for warm coats, the other for non-perishable food. It reminded me that many children suffer in silence during the holidays. I need to contribute to those barrels, as well as to a few other local charities that make a huge difference in the lives of those in need.

I am fortunate that the holiday season is filled with laugher and love for me, and it’s been that way for a long time. In childhood, however, I felt hopeless. My stepmother was incapable of caring for my sisters and me, and we were desperate. Below is an excerpt from Christmas morning when I was thirteen, two years after my father’s death. I had just washed up and paused in an attempt to collect my thoughts before leaving the bathroom.

Excerpt from Reversible Skirt: A Memoir

Reversible Skirt by Laura McHale Holland
Sisters left to right: Mary Ruth, Laura and Kathy. Mother’s image is in background

Why is everything falling apart like this—like pieces of us crashing down to the ground as we ride on a train speeding out of control to a destination. But where? Why won’t it stop? Why can’t it stop even for just a day or two so I can just sit still with my arms around my knees and look at ants crawling in the dirt, so I can tell the world how angry I am, so I can stand up and say that you can’t speed me on like this. You have to give me my daddy back, or give me something, even a scrapbook to hug close to my heart and tuck under my pillow, something other than this on and on, this screaming in the house and me marching in step through the seasons, the snow, the rain, the beautiful sunshine. March, march, march, sick or well. Pause to vomit if you really must, but pick yourself up and get to school to sit in a desk and listen and write and regurgitate and march back home to hope the door isn’t locked, to hope Mommy isn’t mad, but to know she will be, to sit at the table and pound holes in the top with the tip of your pen through the tablecloth because she is screaming and you can’t think, and the TV’s blaring and the phone is ringing, and the radio’s going, and you are ashamed because the table, the sleek Danish Modern table, was the last piece of furniture Daddy bought in the last year he was alive, actually it was the only piece of furniture you ever saw him buy, and now you’ve ruined it. It can’t be fixed. Nothing can be fixed, and there is no escape.

Mary Ruth bursts into the bathroom after me like water flowing through a hole in a dam. We all have to get ready for church. It’s Christmas, after all.

End of excerpt

If you offer a youth encouragement, you might make a lasting positive impact; if you donate to a food bank, you might ease a broken mother’s stress and enable her to hug instead of harm her children if only for a day; if you donate a toy, you might bring a child you’ll never meet many hours of delight.

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