Facing the Holidays as a Survivor
This is one of an occasional post from Margaret Epperheimer, a seven-year member of Next Door’s Board of Directors.
The woman had a big smile on her face, but the red-purple scar she couldn’t hide on her upper chest told a different story. I think of this brave woman and her four toddler-to-teen smiling children this time of year as I prepare for the holidays. It’s a time of celebration, good cheer and giving thanks for each other and for all that we have. And every year, without fail, it’s a time when I think of this woman.
It was seven years ago when I first volunteered to help at Next Door’s annual Holiday Boutique. This is an uplifting event that brightens the holidays for victims of domestic violence, some of whom have fled a violent home with just the clothes on their backs. Next Door’s community office is transformed into a boutique where moms and their kids “shop” for each other at no cost. A volunteer accompanies each mom and child into one of two gift rooms to choose gifts for each other. Separate gift-wrap stations ensure the gifts are a surprise.
I volunteered for the gift-wrap station. It was over donated gift wrap and bows that I met the smiling woman’s teenage son. He, too, was a volunteer gift wrapper. I didn’t know his story and assumed he was the son of another volunteer. I marveled at his enthusiasm and his maturity and gentleness in dealing with the smaller children – helping them choose gift wrap and exclaiming over their “perfect” choice of gifts for their mothers.
As families gathered to leave, I met her. Surrounded by her children and a mountain of wrapped gifts, she was beaming. The red-purple scar hadn’t had time to fade, but this woman and her children were safe. They were happy and hopeful. The teenage son, clearly the “man” of the family, helped his brave and resilient mother gather the gifts and his siblings. I don’t how this beautiful family has fared since, but I’d like to think the wounds have healed, the children are thriving, the woman is still beaming, and the teenage son is a grown man, possibly with a family of his own and the wherewithal to stop generational domestic violence dead in its tracks. I do know, however, that they have forever changed my own attitude and approach to the holidays. Despite setbacks and losses, there is profound gratitude for the safety and peace we enjoy in our family and in our home.
I am thankful for Next Door and the many volunteers and donors that have, for almost 20 years, made the annual event possible. Last year, 331 women and 848 children “shopped” for gifts for each other. This year’s Holiday Boutique is Dec. 13-15. Donations of new and unwrapped items, as well as cash and corporate sponsorships, are still being accepted. There are multiple ways to get involved. If you or your company is interested in making a difference for survivors of domestic violence, I can guarantee a pay-back for years to come. Call Next Door today: (408) 501-7550.