My son spends Christmas Eve with his dad and stepmother’s family when he is in town. His stepmother’s family has a large Christmas Eve family brunch and that’s when they do their gift exchange. In the past, John and I have spent Christmas Eve going to see the bonfires on the levee and then to the 11 PM service at our church. We usually get home around the time that Neal does, so in the past we have opened our gifts around midnight and then slept late the next morning before having yeast-raised pancakes for breakfast.
This year, Neal decided to stay overnight with his dad. He came back to our house after noon Christmas Day, giving him just enough time to fix his spinach madeleine in time for our 2 PM dinner. So we didn’t open gifts until 3:30 or so.
When you get to be my age and have to devote a lot of time to divesting yourself of all the stuff you have collected in a life time so as not to be overwhelmed with it, the fun part of exchanging presents is giving gifts, not getting them. Four years ago at Christmas, present buying was easy. Then as now, LSU was selected for the BCS Championship Game, which, just as now, was in New Orleans. So gift selection was simple: I spent a small fortune on Stub Hub buying 2 tickets to the game, one for Neal and one for John.
I put John’s ticket in a small box, wrapped in LSU wrapping paper. I put that box in a larger box, wrapped in neutral paper, and put that box in a larger box, and so on five boxes deep. They read “Merry Christmas”, “Happy Valentine’s Day”, “Happy Anniversary”, “Happy Birthday” and “Happy Father’s Day”, in order of decreasing size.
For Neal, I did the same thing, with “Merry Christmas”, “Happy Valentine’s Day”, “Happy St. Patrick’s Day”, “Happy Easter” and “Happy Birthday”, in order of decreasing size. Only inside the smallest box was a gift card for an electronic’s store.
I keep forgetting my son isn’t a spoiled teen any more. I was expecting him to anticipate a ticket and whine about it (good-naturedly) when none was forthcoming. However, he simply congratulated John on getting the ticket and admired his own gifts (an LSU tie and some electronic device he had wanted). Later, I had him help me set the table (another Christmas tradition, since table setting was his first chore as a toddler). After handing him the napkins and silver, I handed him a sign I had made thanking me for the ticket, with the ticket clipped to it, and said, “And you are going to need this sign to hold up when you go to the game.”
They were both ecstatic, as was I when LSU held up their end of the bargain and walloped the Ohio State University for the national championship.
This year I made it clear early on not to expect a repeat. Tickets are selling on Stub Hub for about the amount of my monthly Social Security check. John wanted the hammer drill and Neal wanted an iPod Nano. I also got some surprise gifts: a cashmere scarf for Neal and a gift card for an office supple store for John, who needs a new printer. John also found Neal a collapsible cart to take to the market, which is several blocks from his flat in London. Neal was thrilled; he and his roommate had been saying they needed such a thing. My husband shares his mom’s gifts for finding handy gadgets.
Neal bought John the shredder he wanted, in which I took a proprietary interest, since I probably used our existing shredder more than John does. The new one reduces paper to confetti, 8 sheets at a time, and takes on CD’s, DVD”s and credit cards as well.
Neal gave me some coasters. Yes, John got a fancy shredder suitable for a small office and I got coasters. They are handmade, marble coasters, purchased at Agra, India, made from the same marble as the Taj Mahal and inset with lapis lazuli, turquoise, tiger stone, and other semi-precious jewels, each one a little different from the last, but I have fun telling people that my son gave John a new shredder and me a set of coasters.
|Not the kind that sing "Charlie Brown"|
|Neal also gave me the elephant for my elephant collection.|
It is strange how events in my life tend to repeat. Many years ago, my dad gave me a set of coasters. It wasn’t exactly a gift, he just needed some to set his ever-present coffee cup on when he came to visit. The coasters were mass produced out of wood and cork, but they were precious to me and I hung on to them until they fell apart or got lost over the years. Now I have a replacement, from his grandson.
I love Christmas.