art with story

My first Christmas

A man with Rubik’s cube | 2015 | Acrylic on canvas | 10 x 8 in ( 25.4 x 20.32 cm )

On the morning of last Christmas 2021, my husband and I, with our dog Dingo, unwrapped the presents under the tree. We took many pictures together. There were lots of laughter. After a small meal, we started watching ‘Home alone 2’. We finished watching the first movie on Christmas eve, and we planned to watch the second one on Christmas day. I was in pain a bit, but not too bad. Everything seemed fine. In the middle of the movie, I went to the bathroom. When I came out, I was in more pain. I dropped on the carpet. My husband hurried over to help me to get to the couch. When I stood up, I passed out in his arms. When I woke up, I saw my husband pacing back and forth, calling 911. He was breathing hard. I remember he was talking to the operator, letting them know I was a cancer patient.

Soon, four paramedics came in. The pain got worse. I crouched on the ground. A paramedic knelt in front of me to figure out my condition. I squeezed his knee hard for pain. He tried to soothe me. There was a small painting of my husband on the wall where I collapsed. I painted that while we were dating many years ago. One of the paramedics said it was a nice painting, and my husband said I painted it. He showed pleasant surprise. I don’t know why I remember this conversation more than anything. The next thing I remember is I was on a chair going down the stairs by these four men. I didn’t have a coat on. The December wind woke me up a bit more. My head was bouncing. I didn’t have the strength to lift my head to see the surroundings. All I saw was my hair waving in front of my eyes. It was my first ambulance ride. I remember feeling better thanking them for their hard work on Christmas. The paramedic said no problem. I welcomed the new year in the hospital. And I finally came home before February.

Our family never really celebrated Christmas. No Christmas cards or gifts were exchanged. But I still remember my mom decorating a Christmas tree and our trips to the night market. When I was young, in elementary school, my mom used to take my sister and me to a night market on Christmas eve. It was after midnight, so technically, it was on Christmas. Most of my memories about this little Christmas trip faded in blur images with yellow and orange lights everywhere in the dark. I remember one year, I got a pair of giant yellow gloves that imitated the gloves of my favorite k-pop group’s costume. My world was full of them back then. Their posters filled the walls of my room. I even made a pencil holder with a hardboard covering it with pictures of them. I made covers for all my school books too. I was so happy wearing the gloves. My mom bought us a street snack too. It was a long cylinder-shaped roasted rice cake. Holding the hot rice cake in the cold, blowing hard before every bite, required effort but was fun and delicious. But for some reason, our modest Christmas celebration stopped. Christmas tree disappeared from our home. No more night market trips. I still wonder what happened to our Christmas.

I never lost my Christmas vibe, though. I always made sure to give Christmas cards to my friends. And when I started dating, my go-to Christmas present was a knitted scarf. I learned how to knit from my mom and knitted for days in classes and at home. My husband also has one. I made a blue scarf for our first Christmas together. In the painting paramedic liked, he is wearing the scarf. I took a picture of him playing with a Rubik’s cube while waiting for me to go to dinner in Japan many years ago, and I turned it into a painting.

After I got married, I started decorating our home for Christmas. Every year, take the tree out and wrap it with long lights. Then, I hang curtain lights on the windows. Our home is filled with yellow lights dancing all day in December. It gives me joy.

But last Christmas changed my Christmas forever. I wasn’t sure if I’ll have another Christmas. After I left the hospital and got strong enough to have the assurance of longer life, I looked forward to Christmas the most. Many cancer patients have their cancerversary. Some chose the date when they were first diagnosed, and for some, the day they got a clear scan. Christmas is the day for me. For the whole year, when I imagined my next Christmas, I was happy that I’d have another Christmas and that I was still here to celebrate it. Now Christmas has come, and I have joy with fear. I didn’t know that I was afraid that my last Christmas would repeat. I’m not sure how many Christmas I need not have this fear. But my first Christmas is here, and I know it will be a happy one. Also, I’m looking forward to finishing the movie I left in the middle of it last year.

I wish you all a merry Christmas and a happy new year!