Family’s gift giving evolves through the decades

12/16/2013 12:00 AM

12/13/2013 2:17 PM

Our very first Christmas was peaceful and joyous, wasn’t it? We probably got up and exchanged little momentos of love to each other. It’s been a while and my memory is foggy. However, I’m sure this was the year my sweetheart handed me his well-thought-out gifts wrapped clumsily with a wad of wrapping paper and a roll of cellophane tape. No ribbon. Hump.

I opened the big one first and was elated. I got an iron. I held my breath on the little one. My eyes watered as I carefully picked off the paper, careful to not reveal too much too soon. My heart was fluttering. Oh. I look up questioningly at his choice.

“You told me you wanted something that glittered and look, see those little sparkles in there.” I strain. Yep, there they are blended chemically throughout the sticky tube. I put it on my lips, showing my approval. Lip gloss, he is so thoughtful. I’ve no idea why he is still breathing today.

I, on the other hand, was very thoughtful when I gave him some long woolen socks that he could pull up and over his steel-toed work boots and a very clever toe nail clipper set. Just goes to show you the difference between men and women!

The next year, I got a pair of green bell bottom pants and a matching red blouse. So festive.

“The saleslady said you would just love these,” he said with a smile of pleasure.

That year I gave him some rocks.

Then the children came and the excitement was refocused.

1968 – “Can I have that?” First time I noticed all the commercials aimed at the younger crowd to nag their parents to buy. And that and that and that. Do they think we’re made of money? We were fairly new at this sort of thing. Mr. Scrooge kept turning off the television that to this day, I can’t remember how he managed to get up and physically push in the button. Fortunately, we only had the one TV.

It took me a year to figure out that I couldn’t trust the little tykes to get it right on the first sighting. However, it made it very dangerous when at the last minute the girls wanted a Cabbage Patch doll and there wasn’t one to be found. I even tried bribing a lady at Kmart to give me hers saying that my daughter was going to die soon and this is all she wanted.

It was probably 1973 – two sleep-deprived poor people sit in a living room covered in boxes, colorful wrapping paper and ribbon haphazardly flung all over the living area. This was the year Poor Person No. 1 with bandaged fingers from putting the miniature metal stove and sink set together until 3 a.m. and I sat on the couch watching the carnage. He prefers to do the assemblage sans directions. (Like the swing set we bought the year before that still has parts missing.) It’s more challenging that way as I notice the tiny oven door handle is at the bottom. Whoops!

1980 – The year of physical activity – three 10-speed bicycles line the living room as Mr. and Mrs. Claus drink themselves into the next century. “Oh it wasn’t so bad,” I say as my unmoving partner looks down at his tools and extra bike pieces all over the floor. “It’s Christmas,” I remind him. I did think he was going to give himself a heart attack when he tried to attach the training wheels on the fourth bike. However, he was thankful the plastic Hot Wheels came assembled.

Keep in mind, too that with each passing year, more children are being added to our Christmas guest list. “Look, Ma, it’s the Lees,” as we take up an entire pew at Christmas Mass.

It was becoming harder and harder to buy for the youngsters with the different ages and sexes being careful to have the same number of packages to unwrap and of equal value. Not at all uncommon were gifts wrapped with just socks or new underwear. (I had long since used all available boxes.) I would run out at the last minute to get a single toy and then again to find that must-have special charm bracelet or hair clip I forgot.

It was 1984 when the love of my life took the girls shopping with him to get my gifts on Christmas Eve, a tradition that lasted for nearly 20 years. It was later that I found he only stands in one spot and they scatter through the department store snatching up everything in sight. That year, too, as we were leaving Christmas Mass, me and my new really roomy, warm, reversible, quilted coat and the children decked out in their new finery, I noticed a white tag hanging from under my armpit that said in big black letters, “ONE SIZE FITS EVERYONE EVEN YOU, FATTY!” And yet the man is still alive today!

So now we just give money. Money works. No tools or blood, no nasty words, no packages to mail (Shh, just the one - THE BOX, but that’s another story), that works everywhere and doesn’t have to be returned. Mr. Wonderful is back in good graces. He gives the girls his credit card and we go shopping.

“Oh look. Ahh, for me. Honey, you are so thoughtful. How did you know?” Kiss, kiss.

And best of all with every Christmas as hectic as it gets, the hustle and bustle, and the miracle of Jesus’ birth, there is always the hope for a bright new tomorrow and the After Christmas Sales. Whoohoo!

Merry Christmas, everyone!

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