It’s a few days before Christmas and all through the house, not a gift is in sight, not even a tree. What?! Oh, I’ll dig out that plastic, partially decorated tree that sits in the store room, protected under an old sheet most of the year when I’m done with this blog post, but the only thing that will be found underneath it will be a cat enjoying a nap. Perhaps, in some eyes that seems a bit odd, so allow me to sprinkle a twinkle of my reality into this holiday post.
At the risk of sounding baby-boomer cliche’ (but trust me, it’s true) I came from a blue collar family at the lower part of the pay scale, but my sister and I never knew we were “poor”. Sure there were gifts, but as soon as we realized who Santa Claus was, the gifts became something the entire family could enjoy – a reel-to-reel tape recorder so we could converse with family thousands of miles away (AT&T long distance was $5-7 a minute), a camera to capture precious memories during special occasions (film and development costs were a luxury), a used station wagon so we ladies didn’t have to ride to church squished in the cab of Dad’s dirty work pick-up, and one year we voted for a new refrigerator (we lived in Southern California with no AC and we were ecstatic that we finally had ice cubes again!)
Our “real gifts” were family moments – decorating the tree together and singing carols, reading the Bible and stringing popcorn with Mom, baking cookies or making fudge with my sister and roasting a 25 lb. turkey with Dad; topped off with visiting relatives and attending Midnight Mass. Christmas Day was spent relaxing and chatting with visitors who stopped by for a cup of eggnog and watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” on our black and white TV – the only one in the house. We were together, laughing and smiling. Nope, I just can’t see how a box with a surprise inside would have made Christmas any brighter!
Today, now that there are a few more pennies in my pocket book, I do give a few gifts to the children whose sparkling eyes and giggles fill me with joy, or to a special, grateful few who have a real need. But personally, I don’t expect, nor do I want any store-bought gifts piling up under the tree tagged with my name. My husband and I agreed before we were married to give what we’d otherwise spend on each other to a children’s charity each year, and I also have an agreement with most other adult family members – don’t buy for me, I won’t buy for you; make something if you like (fudge is always welcomed!), but let’s just appreciate and celebrate the fact we still have each other in this world.
So for those who have an uncontrollable urge to hand me a gift – if you really must because it makes you happy – I request the following:
- Don’t buy me a book or movie video – do read or view it and write a poem or tell me a story about how it inspired you and what you’ve learned from it.
- Don’t buy me music – do sing me a song or join me in a carol or two.
- Don’t buy me jewelry, trinkets or clothes – do give me something you’ve made with your own two hands from recycled materials or those found in Nature (that includes fudge).
- Don’t buy me a bank gift card – do give that amount to the Food Shelf and visit or write me after so I can experience the love that your sharing surely created.
- Don’t give me a frown if you’re not able to buy what you wanted to give me – do please give me your beautiful smile.
That’s all I really want for Christmas – just a smile – because to me, a loving smile is the most precious gift of all.
So, having said that, I’m headed for the store room for that Christmas tree that needs to be decorated with the only ornaments that I carefully put away each year – handmade gifts and family heirlooms that bring to mind loved ones who have given me tons of wonderful smiles. Some ornaments are as brilliant as the day they were new, others are a bit tattered with age, but each and every one comes with a cherished memory that makes my heart sing.
And so I’ll leave you now until next year, wishing you and yours the best of holidays! Make some memories, string some popcorn, whip up a batch of fudge. May your homes be blessed with cheerful laughter, and may the only tears be that of joy! Merry Christmas to all and to all many, many smiles! 🙂