I was in Florida just before Chanukah and spent some time with my Uncle Barry and his wife Kathy. I was telling them that my kids got way too much for Chanukah and Christmas. He asked what my parents gave us as kids. He said that they’d gotten three gifts which they opened on the first night.
I remember opening something every night. We’d have special nights. One night we’d get clothes. We’d often get a game that we could all play. The last night was the night for the big gift. My favorite night was book night. We would get a stack of books one night. I think that’s still one of my favorite things to receive.
I’m sure we got more than we needed but things seemed different then. I remember my mom spending ages making clothes for my sister’s Barbie. She sewed Barbie several new wardrobes for Jill to play with. Now, if Barbie needs a new wardrobe, you just buy a new Barbie who wears that outfit. It’s a small difference, but it’s an example of the overabundance that my kids have.
I know that each year my mother is going to give a bag of gifts for each night. Kim’s mom is going to go over the top at Christmas.
That’s nice. I love how much my children have been embraced by their grandparents – but it’s more than the kids can possibly appreciate.
Kim and I have taken to giving the kids just a few gifts for the holidays because we know they will get so much from our parents.
When I got back from Florida, Maggie sat talking to me while I unpacked my bag. I pulled a green squishy ball out of the bag. One of the conference sponsors had been giving them out at their booth.
“Ooooh,” she said, “a green, squishy ball.”
“Yep,” I said. I left to throw my dirty clothes down the clothes chute.
“Can I have it?” she asked when I returned.
I thought a moment. I’d gotten it for her but I wasn’t ready to give it to her yet. “Tell you what,” I said, “I’ll give it to you for Chanukah.”
She rolled her eyes.
“You know what else?” I asked.
“What?” she replied.
“You have to wrap it for yourself.”
She rolled her eyes again. I wasn’t done.
“Oh, and I want you to look really surprised when you get it.”
A couple of nights later we went to see someone I know at an author signing. We stopped at Office Max before we went to see him at the Borders next door. She needed ink for her printer and lead for her pencil.
“Oh good,” she said, “I suppose you’re going to make me wrap these for Chanukah gifts too.”
“What a great idea,” I said.
She rolled her eyes. I think it’s part of preparing for her teen years.
“You know,” I said, “you will look back on this someday and say ‘this was the worst Chanukah ever’.”
“Someday?” she said in a sarcastic voice, “how about now?”
But we’d made a game of it and she knew that she’d get more gifts than she’d need.
The first night of Chanukah came and Maggie got a little hand-sized massager called a Puff. She loved it. But she wondered, “where’s my squishy ball?”
“Did you wrap it?” I asked.
“No,” she said.
“Well if you want anything tomorrow you better wrap it.”
The next night she got up suddenly from the table and headed down to the basement. A few minutes later she came up for scissors.
“What do you need those for?” Kim asked.
“To curl the ribbon,” Maggie said.
“Ribbon for what?” Kim asked.
“For my present,” Maggie said and went back to the basement.
I smiled. Kim rolled her eyes. Could be that that’s where Maggie got it from.
After dinner we lit the candles and sang the blessings. Maggie unwrapped the package with the curly blue ribbon on it. “Ooooh,” she said with her best faked look of surprise on her face.
“What is it?” asked Kim.
“It’s a green, squishy ball,” said Maggie with a big smile.
Another night I gave her just the black ink for her printer and another night the pencil lead.
I think my favorite year of gift giving was the year I made each of the girls a felted purse. In November I took them to Susan’s Yarns and they picked out the colors they wanted. Each would have a purse in their color that was trimmed in the other girl’s color. Maggie chose a bright Magenta and Elena chose a deep gold. The colors worked well together. I found a pattern and knit the purses in front of them. They looked floppy and shapeless and kind of ugly. A friend suggested that I finish each one with some yarn that looked like orange colored Golden Retriever hair.
On Chanukah I took Elena downstairs and we put her purse in the washing machine with the temperature on hot. The yarn started to felt. It shrunk and the consistency changed. “Tell me when that’s enough,” I said.
“Not yet,” she said.
When she finally said, “now”, we laid out the felt purse on the table and arranged it so it would dry right. It was Maggie’s turn. Together, she and I went to the basement and felted her purse. When the felt dried, the girls showed everyone.
Soon after the holidays it joined many of the other gifts that they didn’t play with. Elena’s hung on her door for months. I don’t know if Maggie still remembers that purse. It was, in a big way, like my mom making all of those doll clothes for my sister.