Strange the gifts that slumber in our memories. The recollection of opening a box to find something inside that hints of how we are regarded. A gift reflecting the depth of friendship, the wisdom of parenthood.
Sometimes the memory of a poor gift remains with us as well. This is why “regifting” can be shallow and thoughtless.
A gift is a contract between giver and receiver. I learned this when I gave a blue ladies razor to my sister the year she entered 8th grade. That I saw her as a woman meant everything. We became lifetime soul mates and confidants. And it was such a small gift.
Every year my kids would drive me crazy with their Christmas lists.
To keep Christ in Christmas, and to keep my kids from getting Santa Crazy, I always used the Rule of Four. They didn’t catch on until they were parents and now they use the same rules for theirs!
The Christmas Rule of Four
Something you Want
Something you Need.
Something to Wear
Something to Read
The Want Gift—
This was on the kid. “Give me a list of five things you really want” shifted the onus. No whining afterward. No returning it to the store. The Want Gift determined what was left in the budget to spend on the other three—necessary back when we raised an entire family without a credit card. Sometimes The Want Gift was a wearable item, like a hoodie with a Pro-team logo. Cha ching!
The Need Gift—
Chef’s choice—anything from a Gillette razor for budding peach fuzz to new underwear. Never glamorous, but always appreciated. The gift you usually slipped under the sofa pillows so no one could see. But proof that Mama was paying attention.
The Wear Gift—
The proverbial pajama was always a crowd pleaser, back in the day when houses were drafty and a kid owned a single pair of flannel PJ’s. Ditto slippers. Who didn’t love a soft new pair? And once in a blue moon—a new bathrobe!
In my teen years, that flat, rectangular box with the rustle of tissue paper was the gift that set my heart racing. Once, my mother bought me a red polyester suit. Man I loved that thing. I didn’t know at the time that I was a red girl, but I opened the box and was in love. One of my favorite all-time gifts. Sweaters, not so much. Not after the hardscrabble year we moved to the farm and the only money that could be spared went for a $2.99 Penney’s white bulky knit sweater. Hated that sweater. Hated the one that replaced it the following year. But hard years gave me something to look forward to. Some years my mother used the Rule of One. But better years arrived.
The Read Gift—
Sometimes a subscription to a magazine. Sometimes a classic, hardcover book that still graces the bookshelf a lifetime later. Sometimes a 69-cent copy of Black Beauty from the five-and-dime. One year a Bible with a shiny red cover. A reminder of our family values.
I often made one of the gifts. Doll clothes for the new baby doll, whatever. Maybe I just remember that I did. Or wished I had. But whatever, I tried.
So that was Christmas. No shuffling through the wrapping paper in a disappointed search to see if a kid missed something. Count them—one, two, three, four—down and out. Time to put the gifts away and get ready for Mass, the Reason for the Season.