Of Christmas Presents Past

Beth Yim

Beth Yim

I can’t remember the last time we all sat down to dinner. Maybe two or three years ago. Even Christmas and Thanksgiving dinners aren’t formal-sit-down-around-the dinner-table events. There isn’t enough room. Maybe I invite too many people?

This past weekend, after a day of badminton play, our adult kids came home for a sit down dinner. It was like old times. All it lacked was the cards and pad of paper and pencil.

We used to play Hearts or Rummy at dinnertime. We homeschooled and would turn every event into a learning opportunity. Playing card games developed reading and math skills, teamwork and because John never let them win, how to lose.

No cards this time, instead we reminisced about Christmas. Only a month away we were all at a loss as to what to get each other. Quickly the conversation segued from wanting to know what to get each other to what we got in the past.

“Did you get me a troll?” Zack asked as we led him to the small door under our house. Zack was seven, and wanting a bike of his own. The night before John had hid a new CCM there, among the cobwebs, last summers onions and a few jars of jam.

Zack thought a troll lived under the porch so getting one for Christmas certainly made sense to him. But that was soon forgotten when he opened the door and saw his new shiny blue bike. We have still pictures of his surprise. The large oh shaped mouth, raised eyebrows and arms stretched out to his side. We didn’t take video, just still pictures, each one a frozen moment of joy.

“What present do you remember?” Zack asked Megan.

“I just remember the Lego Aqua Center you and Zachary destroyed.”

“You were so angry.” Zack said. “And mom got so mad at me. I couldn’t figure out why?”

“Any other ones you remember?” I asked. We sat silently, different memories, different stories moving past respective mental screens.

“I can’t think of any.” Megan said.

Zack listed off a half dozen. Megan sat silent. I started feeling guilty. What did I get her for Christmas. I couldn’t remember. Desperation sped my memories but all that stepped forward were gifts Zack had gotten; ski passes, a camera, snowboard, stereo and on and on.

Eventually, Zack wandered off, John left to turn the TV on. I sat at the table, elbows on either side of my now empty dinner plate. I wanted to remember something, anything. We did get her good gifts, ones she really liked. But we couldn’t remember any of them.

I’ve learned my lesson. From this Christmas on, whether it’s our kids or grandkids, I’m writing down what we give them. If they can’t remember, at least we’ll be able to look in my Christmas gift record book and tell them, show them that the gift giving was fair, that everyone got the same amount of wonderful gifts.

There’ll be no room for sad feelings, of being left out, or forgotten. We might even start a new tradition: the annual bringing out the Christmas Gift Ledger Book. We can all gather round and reminisce about past Christmas presents.

The idea has merit. I think I’ll make it so!

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