As I’m sure it is in your house, there’s been a lot of talk about gifts lately in mine. My 10-year-old is much more open about his Wish List now that he’s aware of “The Santa Situation.” (That’s what we’ll call it in case there are any little eyes with advanced reading skills here today.) It’s downright transactional now for my CEO of Christmas. He’s all business. He talks about his list like he’s deciding which stocks to invest in. But this morning on our way to school, as we passed through downtown Chattanooga surrounded by holiday decorations and lights, he confessed something from the backseat.
“Mama, I know Christmas is supposed to be about family. And, I love being with you. But, I really like presents. REALLY like them.”
My knee jerk reaction was to reply with some eloquent Mom Speech about the true meaning of Christmas and how experiences mean more than gifts. But I sat there at the stoplight and realized something. The kid is not wrong. I mean, family is a blessing and quality time with those we love should never be taken for granted. But presents? Y’all. I love a good present as much as the next person. Should any of us apologize for that? Nope. Especially not at Christmas! (That’s right. I said it. I’m Team Gifts.)
So, I started thinking…what have been my favorite Christmas gifts over the years? I spent the rest of the drive to school reminiscing about Christmases past. I was surprised at how quickly certain special gifts – and memories – came back to me.
Santa brought me a dollhouse one year when I was five or six. That dollhouse had every single detail my little girl heart could imagine. Small curtains hung at the window, a bed with a blanket and pillows, tiny dishes on the dining table and a miniature roll of toilet paper in the bathroom. Even the lights worked. You flipped a switch and the tiniest little lights illuminated the entire house. It was like magic. Miniature magic. I remember laying on the floor, looking into that dollhouse, wondering what it would be like to live inside of it with the tiny, magical things. There was something comforting about it.
A few years later, my Nana’s best friend gave me a snow-white porcelain doll with a snow-white dress and equally white bonnet. She was downright blinding. And, I adored her. I remember I sat her on a shelf and didn’t even play with her because of how pristine she was. She looked fancy and pure and perfect. No changing her dress or her making friends with my Barbies. She stayed safe and sound on the shelf. I still have her, by the way. And, she’s still perfect all these years later.
We all need that one thing that stays the way we remember it, don’t we?
The year I graduated from college, I spent Christmas with my boyfriend and his parents. It was, in my entire life, the only Christmas I’ve ever spent away from family. That Christmas was special though. One of the gifts he gave me was this ridiculously huge stuffed bear. It wasn’t just any oversized stuffed animal. It was a Hallmark Christmas Movie-sized bear complete with a big red bow. He said that when he walked through the mall (back in the days when people shopped at malls), the ladies all smiled because he was carrying that huge bear. Trust me; I know why the ladies smiled. But I’m sure the bear helped. I think it’s still in my grandparents’ attic, that bear. I can’t bring myself to check, though. Maybe over the years someone threw it out. Maybe it’s disintegrated down to a pile of fluff and fur. Who knows? In my mind, that big bear with the bow that my handsome boyfriend carried through the mall is still sitting there. Surrounded by boxes of other memories. Waiting for me to come back for it. I adored that bear. To this day, decades later, it is still one of my favorite gifts.
Christmas is absolutely about family and friends and surrounding yourself with the warmth of togetherness. But, presents…they hold memories, too.
Presents can be experiences. Special gifts that special people chose just for you. As you get older, you realize what’s important. It’s the love. And the moments. But, every now and then, there’s a perfect giver and a perfect gift. Those are the gifts that last forever. Maybe they’re in an attic. Maybe they’re on a shelf. But those memories are the miniature lights that give a glow to the years past. They illuminate your heart. And, boy, does that bring comfort and joy.