Yesterday at my departmental holiday gathering (cupcakes and cheese and sparkling grape juice in a conference room), one of the ladies suggested we play an “ice breaker” game. On a piece of paper, everyone wrote down the best Christmas gift ever received. I was stumped. Most of my co-workers were stumped. A very simple question, with what should be a simple answer. And I had nothing.
Growing up, I had wonderful Christmases. My parents did a good job of giving us most of what we wanted, but not too much. And yet, I couldn’t come up with a favorite gift. In fact, I had a hard time remembering any gifts with much specificity.
Here is what I do remember:
- Driving home from my Grandma Bailey’s house on Christmas Eve and sitting backwards in the station wagon, Christmas music playing on the radio. It felt like time was suspended on that night in some alternate magical universe. I remember looking for Christmas lights, and never wanting that car ride to end. All of the anticipation of Christmas Day was in front of me, and I wanted to hold it there.
- Sitting on the red shag carpet at my Grandma & Grandpa Wagner’s house on Christmas Day, staring up at the multitude of stockings on the mantle. My grandmother gave each cousin (all 18 of us) a stocking with some little token in it. It was never anything extravagant, but I was always so intrigued by what I would find each year. My Grandma Wagner also has a rather unique sense of humor, so you never knew what you would find.
- The smell of my mother’s sugar cookies and cherry pies. She only bakes at holidays, but her cookies and pies are legendary.
- Lying under the lights of the Christmas tree, eating red, green and silver Hershey kisses and dreaming about who knows what.
My son is two this year and is enthralled with Christmas. Every night we go look at the “Cri-mas lights”. We’ve seen Santa and we talk about Santa and “no crying” and reindeers and snowmen and candy canes. He helped us decorate the tree and requests to watch “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” or “Frosty the Snowman” every night before bed. He’s at that age where he doesn’t quite get it, but he knows it’s something special. As this is my first Christmas as a parent of a toddler, I’ve been thinking about what I want our Christmas traditions to be. I feel like we have it all in front of us, and I want to get it right.
This year I bought some Christmas-themed books and wrapped them all. I lined them up on our mantle, and each night before bed, O gets to pick one out and we read it together. Next year, I plan on getting a full 25 and treating it as our Advent Calendar.
Other than that, I have begun a list of traditions I would like to create for my kids.* I know O’s favorite memories will most likely be those things that I can’t anticipate, but I would still like to create some thoughtful traditions that we can do together.
I’m stocking up on ideas and making a list for the years to come. What are your favorite holiday traditions? I will post a list later.
Back to the most festive holiday gathering ever in a conference room- there were a few people that had an instant answer. The gift in question was always something that was not about the thing itself, but about the thing it represented. A plane ticket home, a promise ring, a gift of a favorite book. And when that person explained their choice, it always came with a story.
It might be too late, but this year I am going to try to pick out more thoughtful gifts rather than trying to fulfill a wish list. As for me? I wrote down a Barbie Dream House. My real answer? The fact that in my 37 years, I have never missed a single Christmas at home and I never want to. Spending Christmas with my family and actually wanting to be there is a gift that you cannot measure. I only hope that I will be so lucky and that O will still be coming home for Christmas when he’s 37.
This year? I want the gift of time. Any ideas on how to wrap that up? (I actually have some, but that’s another post).
*Yes, I did say “KIDS” up there. O is going to be a big brother! Between the pregnancy and going back to work full time, I have been far too absent in the blogging world. I am going to be revamping this site a bit, and plan to be around a bit more in 2012. Happy Holidays!