This will not be a 'big' Christmas for us, as in piles of wrapped gifts under the tree. We're already buried under college loans and (yes, I hate to admit it) credit card debt....all those family trips and Fiftieth Birthday get-togethers are catching up with us, I guess. No need to bury ourselves any further with gifts we don't need.
And the key word is need. Sure...maybe I dream of new towels that aren't stained and frayed...and I admit I slow down near the jewelry, shoe and purse departments...and wouldn't it be nice to have a real leather coat...?
But I don't need any of those things (perhaps the towels, but even those can wait a little while longer. And who wants towels for Christmas, anyway??)
Fortunately, our kids are old enough to understand this, and that if they really need something, we'll help them get it. More fortunately, they are great kids who haven't asked for anything...in fact, they won't give me any ideas at all to pass on to Santa. Maybe they feel paying half of their college costs is enough.
(Here's some advice for new parents...think carefully about the traditions you begin. When ours were small, we had this brilliant idea...we explained that Santa only delivered one present apiece to each child in the world because he had so many to take care of! Anything else came from us, and if they didn't get much, it was because we didn't have much money. That way Santa's reputation was never tarnished, my kids didn't get complexes thinking Santa liked their friends more than them, we didn't feel we had to buy them everything they asked for, and they knew they weren't getting everything they wanted, so they needed to think hard about it.)
My problem is I still want to give...I want to hit the malls and buy all of my friends and family at least one gift. I want to hide in the library with wrapping paper, tape, bows and tags and disguise all of the gifts...imagining the delighted expressions on my loved ones' faces when they rip into the wrapping and see what I bought them.
I'm trying to flip my brain around...think of ways to give without spending (much) money. After all, some of the things I've been given that mean the most to me haven't cost a dime.
For instance, Daniel is sitting behind me as I write, watching a program on PBS about Christianity in ancient Rome...he's telling me about papers and things he translated in his Latin class this semester that are mentioned on the program...stories about saints and other historical figures he learned about. For a while TG lounged next to him on the couch and in between talking to me, they talked about kids from school...laughing, teasing, sharing.
Now they're heading out the door together...she has talked him into going with her into town to hang out with friends....
What more could they give me than to enjoy each other's company?
The only thing my family has asked me for is food: I will be cooking and cooking over the holidays...Daniel requested Cyclops cookies and King Ranch casserole...Tom requested turkey and dressing...TG requested broccoli cheese casserole...Tommy just requested "food" in general. (My gift...all three kids will be here again!)
Yesterday morning TG and I stopped by the veterinarian's office on our way to work. They had made an imprint of Charly's pawprint and it was ready to be picked up. I didn't take it out of the blue satin bag until after work - I had to prepare myself. But what a precious gift. I'd rather have Charly, of course, but it was such a compassionate gesture and a keepsake I'll cherish.
Today I mentioned on Facebook that I've strained my rotator cuff. Right away I had plenty of advice and sympathy, wrapped in expressions of concern and topped with offers of prayer. A beautiful Christmas present.
A friend reminded me the other day about the importance of a phone call. It hit home with me because I'm terrible about making phone calls. Anyway, he explained how a friend's wife had died, and even though he'd had good intentions of calling him once a week, the weeks had become months. But something made him call his friend the other day; it turned out to be the anniversary of the wife's death. He said...
"...As we said good-bye Big Ted said these words: 'Thanks for calling. I love you.' I was taken aback and said 'Me too.' Big Ted has never said he loved me. I truly felt that he needed that call and I am so thankful for a loving, merciful and patient God. Coincidence? Maybe so, but I would like to think that little voice I heard on Friday was the Holy Spirit. Yes...I have been putting off calling and should have, but God knew Big Ted needed that call and I am so thankful that I did not crush or put off that small little voice..."
The best gifts don't cost money. The best gift we can give is our time...our prayer...our concern...our love. After all, look at the example we've been given...the one that begins on Christmas Day.