I plugged in the Christmas tree lights, took my Barbie dolls out of an old shoe box, and placed them underneath the tree. I imagined the Christmas lights were those of Times Square on New Year's Eve.
Imagination allowed me to get away from what was real -- another Christmas without presents.
When I didn't have Barbie dolls, I cut out the models – men, women, and children – from advertisements that ran in Sunday's Boston Herald and played with them. And I played with pencils, pens, crayons, and pool balls (the blue one was always me).
When I imagined, I could be anyone, anywhere in the world. I was a lawyer and a secretary. I was a student and a teacher. I used a brush as my microphone and stood singing in front of a full length mirror with thousands of crazed fans. I lip sang Queen Latifah and Salt & Pepper songs, dancing until I was out of breath. That was my preferred place to pretend to be, on stage rapping.
But my little sisters made it hard for me to stay on stage. They brought me back when they walked into our bedroom and pleaded, "I'm hungry" or "Where's Mommy?" I tried to introduce them to their imaginations, but they loved my mother too much to come with me. Instead, they cried.
I told God, "God, I want my sisters to wake up one Christmas morning to presents, gifts wrapped in Disney paper. I want them to receive a gift someone specifically selected for them, saying, 'Sam or Jayda would love this.' God, I want them to have more than the gifts that the charity Santa drops off to all the poor kids in the neighborhood."
But my sisters didn’t care about toy presents. All they wanted for Christmas was a sober mother.