Mine is a cautionary tale, one of harried wrapping, misplaced presents and bins full of trash. Overwhelmed Christmas celebrants: Take heed.
It’s a recent tale, as well. We are Jewish, and just wrapped up eight days of Hanukkah. On the third night, the night we’d decided to give the kids their “big” presents for the season, we realized one of those “big” gifts had gone missing.
Of course, there were so many gifts. We have three kids. These three kids watch lots of TV, which means they are exposed to excessive amounts of commercials, and thus have unrealistic expectations of what they can expect and deserve at holiday time. We don’t cater to their every whim, but we aren't as strong as perhaps we would like—which, at moments, is ill-advised when it comes to keeping our pocketbooks snapped shut.
When I threw all the empty boxes and bags into recycling, I must have thrown the “big” present box in there, too.
So Hanukkah arrives, roughly 12 months after the 13-year-old, the 11-year-old and the 8-year-old began planning for it. The afternoon before—a Friday—I went through four rolls of printed paper, one tape dispenser, three packets of gift tag stickers and an armful of stick-on bows, wrapping each gift so it looked as enticing as possible. By the time I dumped the lot of them around the living room fireplace, it felt as if the entire effort had merged into one big box that I'd wrapped for 90 minutes.
We skipped presents Saturday and Sunday nights, due to too many Hanukkah parties. You might think this would be seen as a good thing. You would be wrong.
So now it’s Monday night, the third night of the holiday, and I think that may actually be perspiration dripping down the eager children’s foreheads.
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Our daughter goes first, and she is ecstatic—fringed suede boots! Oh my gosh, thank you, thank you, the world really is a beautiful place, etc., etc. Then it’s the middle child’s turn. He has warned us that he will not be satisfied with anything but an Xbox. As we warned him, he is stuck with his old Wii system. Instead, we have gotten him a new BMX bike. He grins when he sees it. Then he grimaces. Then he sulks.
Can’t please everyone every time. We start digging around in the pile for the really big box that holds our oldest son’s present. But we don’t see a big box. We don’t see anything nearly big enough, in fact.
The 13-year-old gets red around the eyes, even though he is too old for such things.
My husband turns to me: “Con, did you forget to wrap it?”
I swing back at him: “Bill, did you forget to give it to me to wrap?”
Our daughter cries, “Mommy! Daddy! Don’t fight!”
But I suddenly know what I must have done wrong: When I threw all the empty boxes and bags into recycling, I must have thrown the “big” present box in there, too.
My husband goes outside to see if he left the present in the trunk of his car. I slink to the backyard and begin pawing through the recycling, which thankfully won't be picked up until tomorrow. I dump the entire bin, claw through everything, with a flashlight. It is not there. Peek in the stinky garbage can. Nope. Peer around in the green waste container, just in case … Nothing.
We look under beds. On top of dressers. In drawers. Back in the recycling. Again in the car. In desperation, I grab a random present from the teetering pile and hand it to the 13-year-old. Bad random choice. It’s a flannel shirt (when you’ve got an eight-day holiday to manage, not every gift is going to be firework-worthy).
Finally, it’s 9 o’clock, and there is school the next day. “It’s all right,” the 13-year-old says, looking sad and tired. “I understand.” And that is the worst thing I’ve heard all night.
Just then, my husband remembers: “Your office!” And I nod, thrilled, because I just now recall that he brought the present into my little cubbyhole in the garage to show me when I was working there one afternoon.
And there it is, and he snatches it up, and we hand it to our son. It’s still in the bag from the store, no wrapping paper, no ribbon. But he doesn’t care. He reaches in and pulls out the North Face parka with the removable fleece lining—and frowns a little. He, too, wanted an Xbox. But we point out that this is a vast improvement on the tattered jacket he loves so much—the one that he sleeps in many nights. And after a few minutes' consideration, he agrees.
So, momentary problem solved. Larger issue (out-of-control holiday, disorganized parents) is still awaiting resolution.
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