The Ghosts of Christmas Past

As a teenager and even a young adult, I struggled to buy Christmas gifts for my parents. Being a bit spoiled and engaged in my own interests, I never paid too much attention with what interested Mom or Dad. Oh sure, there were the odd years I hit on something good – especially later in life after maturing and learning enough of life’s lessons to know better. What do you get two people when you only have around $10.00 in 1965 and no idea what your Mom or Dad would like? Somehow I managed and I’m sure there were dozens, if not hundreds, of gifts that were put aside or tucked away in a closet to gather dust. But I know my parents loved me despite their cluttered closets. This gift-giving situation was even worse with my grandparents – the bath salts, the Avon gift sets, the little pottery dish, etc. – we’ve all been there!

I’ve now come full circle and I’m the one that the kids struggle to buy for. Nat, too, can no longer come up with any viable ideas that would be worthwhile for either of his daughters to give him. We’ve been asked for gift ideas and haven’t a clue what to put on either list. At least in today’s market there is always the proverbial gift card. God, where where those when I was growing up!!!!!

My family – meaning my sisters – have also reached the stage where exchanging gifts will now cease. Every year it gets harder and harder to decide what to buy each other and in a pinch the gift card rears its’ ugly head as a last minute item. Not to downgrade the gift card, but sometimes I feel it’s a cop out and takes no effort to buy. There’s no effort or thought that goes into buying a card and deep down in everyone’s heart we always want to open a gift on Christmas morning and be overwhelmed by what’s inside that box. It means so much more when you get a gift from someone who truly knew exactly what you wanted. It means that person was paying attention to your every word at one time or another and remembered what you had said. Or it means that person was with you at one time as you passed that particular item in a store and you remarked “boy, I could use something like that”.  Let’s be truthful, we’ve all hopefully had one gift like that and we still remember how great it felt.

I’m a tad disappointed that we’ll not exchange gifts this year and understand that we really should have stopped a few years back. Only a “tad” because I fully understand why the gift giving should stop. We’ve all got families to see to, money isn’t exactly flowing like wine and each of us has come to a point in our lives where we really want for nothing. Any gift we receive is just icing. Let’s again be honest and remind ourselves of the gifts we may have received in the past that we’ve either secretly sold in a garage sale, exchanged without the receipt, re-gifted, or repeated our Mother’s habit of putting it in the back closet to collect dust in order to spare feelings.

My mother’s words are now coming back to haunt me.  “As long as we’re all together”, she would say later in life as I would stand beside her and think to myself, “yeah, but let’s keep the presents coming, eh!!”.  She was right, of course. This past Thanksgiving proved it, as I sat around my sister’s living room laughing and giggling after a good meal. Our parents would have been doubly proud as the reminiscing has also increased with each family gathering, reminding me of days of yore when our Aunts, Uncles and parents did the same thing while gathered at Grandma’s house for Christmas dinner.

My mother always told me that someday I would realize she was right about a lot of things. So far she’s been batting a thousand, as I think to myself on almost a daily basis “my God, I’m just like my mother” – little things I do, little things I say, and even certain facial expressions. Each of my five sisters have also inherited such traits and there’s always a friendly reminder whenever such trait surfaces – “you looked just like Mom there”. Not to forget about dear brother who has grown to look more and more like our father and at times we swear he’s a twin. His mannerisms, his laughter, his sometimes carefree attitude, his love of driving down some unforesaken and forgotten country road, and his looks. Each of his sisters can’t help but smile when he walks in a room!

Yes Mom you were right and it’s only taken me 40 years to realize it. We’ve all reached that stage in life where being all together at Christmas means more than any gift we could receive.


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