Friday, November 27, 2009

Christmas Presents?

I'm not a Black Friday shopper. Hopefully never will be. I guess I don't really see the point. The big ticket items, you can't get unless you sit all night in the parking lot, and the small ticket items -- is it really that big of a sale? There are other times in the year when you get prices just as good, or pretty close, without the chaos.

I hate crowds. I try to get my shopping done before Thanksgiving just to limit the amount of time I have to spend in stores between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

I think another thing that makes me shun Black Friday is all the STUFF. Do people really want and need all the stuff they're grabbing off the shelves? Really? That much stuff?

Now, this time of year, I see tons of bloggers talk about wanting to simplify Christmas (I'm all for that), and only get their kids a couple small gifts (great for them, but I know I could never do it) -- and I also see a lot of comments about Laura Ingalls and her tin cup and peppermint stick Christmas. I see comments such as, "I don't even remember all the stuff I got for Christmas, and people who get just an orange or just a stick of candy remember it their whole lives."

Really? You don't remember the stuff you got for Christmas as a kid? Because I do.

I think of childhood Christmases, and I see the twin dolls and the Holly Hobbie record player I got when I was 3... yes, 3, and I SEE that record player UNDER the tree, unwrapped but with wrapped presents around it, and I see that one little baby doll in its crib waiting for me under the tree Christmas morning, and I see my dad's cousins come in bearing another gift -- the same baby doll -- and my instantly loving them both and raising them as twins. And I was barely three.

Every other Christmas is as vivid, if not more so as I got older. I know what I got for Christmas. I may not remember every single gift -- but I sure remember a lot of them. And I definitely remember the "big gifts". We had several wrapped presents that made their appearance under the Christmas tree at random times throughout the month of December. Always an exciting moment to wake up and discover there are more presents under the tree!! (We never did Santa so the presents could come out whenever my mom got them wrapped instead of having to wait until Christmas Eve, and I wouldn't trade all the joy of anticipation while shaking and feeling and guessing about those wrapped gifts for a belief in Santa that would have later been dashed anyway!) On Christmas morning, our "big gift" sat unwrapped and waiting for us -- a dollhouse, a toolbench (for my brother), a table and chairs set, a special much-longed for doll, etc.

I remember those gifts, I see them clearly in our living room, sitting on that red felt Christmas tree skirt and sometimes spreading over onto the blue shag carpet. I see the tree, with its gawdy gold tinsel, icicles abounding everywhere, those enormous bulb lights with the foil underneath them that looked like cupcake wrappers, and the familiar ornaments, some we made, hanging on the branches. I see those red stockings with fabric initials sewn on them, hanging against that brown paneling on the wall over the heater. It was the 70s, after all. I even remember the stocking contents -- those big plastic candy canes filled with M&Ms, socks and panties, hairthings, pretty pencils and notepads, lip gloss, and other little things that make little girls happy.

So I have to admit, I don't understand these people who don't remember their "big Christmases" and marvel at the memory of the child who only got an orange. It leaves me pondering -- what made the difference?

The only thing I can come up with is the possibility that perhaps these children got lots of things all the time. We didn't. We got a couple of small things for our birthday, and we got a nice Christmas. We didn't get things the rest of the year. I watch Wendy beg for something every time we go to the store -- and most of the time, my dad buying whatever it is she wants -- and I remember that we never asked... never thought to ask because why on earth would we get a toy for no special reason? We asked for what we wanted, sure -- but we always asked as a gift. If we were at the toy store and found something we loved, we asked if we could have that for Christmas.

So maybe I remember all those lovely Christmas gifts because it was the only time in the year -- with the exception of birthday, which was much much smaller -- when we got all those things. Maybe the other people got toys and things year-round. I don't know.

But I do know that the best way to make, and keep, something special and magical for your child is to abstain from it most of the time. And that's something I think our culture has lost. If a child loves something, we want to give it to them again and again -- and it loses its appeal because it isn't special anymore.

So, I will spoil Wendy and John at Christmas. Because -- other than a birthday gift -- I don't give them stuff throughout the year. Other people do, unfortunately, especially the begging Wendy because John's parents are much firmer and don't allow constant gift-giving, but not me.

So what did I buy for the kids' Christmas this year?

Wendy gets a Skitter and an Active Live Outdoor Games Wii game. Got to keep that couch potato active any way I can make it happen. :) I gave John a Skitter for his birthday and she loved it and has been begging for one, so I know that will be a hit -- and hopefully she'll love the Wii game and stay active all winter because of it.

John's is a little more interesting. After much thought and much online research into the world of Thomas and his little train friends, I finally settled upon a set and an expansion kit that I thought made the most sense for him. I could have saved myself the trouble. My brother took him out window-shopping several days after I had made my purchase and while looking at the Thomas stuff, he kept pointing to one particular set and saying, "Want THAT one!" My brother pointed out set after set, but he kept returning to the one set. My brother called to see which one I'd chosen -- and wonder of wonders, the set I had purchased was the same one that John has his heart set on. Hooray! And now whenever you ask him what he wants for Christmas, his answer (except for the occasional time when he still answers Disney World!) is a firm, "THOMAS." He should have a happy Christmas. :)

He also gets some floor puzzles and Disney's Robin Hood on DVD. He loves Peter Pan so much that I thought Robin Hood might also have some appeal...

(The Black Friday sale on the Thomas stuff is buy one get one free. I got it two weeks ago for 40% off. Which I actually think is a better sale because you aren't forced to buy two sets to get the discount! See? Who needs Black Friday?)

So... I'm ready for Christmas. Are you? :)

1 comment:

Heidi said...

I agree with all that you wrote. I, too, remember Christmas gifts vividly and fondly. We also did not receive things throughout the year and we did not always receive *the* thing we wanted for Christmas each year either because my parents did not have much money, but one of us 3 children would get that one special gift each year, and it rotated every year (though we didn't know just who it might be). I remember some much longed for ice skates in 5th grade (still have them), a special doll in 6th grade (yes, I still played with dolls then), my brother's basketball hoop one year, my sister's speak & spell and my Perfection game. I also remember the year (1978) my dear Opa died on Christmas morning. Hard to believe it's already been 31 years. I remember it all SO well. I hope we can create the same memories for our children (who also don't get what they want every time they see it either). This year Tristan is dying for a Lego Indiana Jones Wii game (Michael got it today) and Alyssa is still a little on the fence but is hoping for a Fur Real Kitten, a cupcake decorator, a Belle dress, and a make-up kit (which she will NOT be receiving). :) We'll probably grant her one or two of those wishes. :)