One December my parents hocked their wedding rings at a trashy pawn shop in Salt Lake City in hopes of scraping together enough cash for something small for at least the youngest children. Growing up, Christmas was an anxious time, my mother crying a lot, my dad working around the clock—hoping for a paycheck that wouldn’t bounce. But it was full of happy memories too, surrounded by family, good music, good food and much joy. People were often generous and our stockings usually weren’t empty. I don’t dislike Christmas, but I don’t love it.
My first December in Moscow I spent a p-day cutting up an ugly red plaid skirt that I was too embarrassed to wear and sewed it into makeshift stockings for all the missionaries in my zone. My companion and I stuffed them with candy and cards that said Happy New Year in Russian. A week later we all walked together beneath the light of the moon through a forest of evergreens. The quiet of the forest felt cleansing; white pillows of snow fell covering the dirt from snows past. It’s one my favorite memories of both winter and my mission. [Read more…]