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Last Christmas, somewhere in the 5 a.m. hour, I tried to suck
down an entire cup of coffee in one gulp as I watched my two kids wading out
into the magic.
The gifts were spread out far and wide, most of them wrapped
in Rite Aid wrapping paper: fat Santa Clauses winking from behind a decorated
tree (why was he hiding over there?) and silvery snowmen with weirdo guilty
looks in their coal hunk eyes (what did you do now, Frosty?). A few of the
gifts were too big for the whole paper
thing though, and so strewn here and there were the push bike I had assembled
for 3-year-old Violet and the big wheel for 1-year-old Henry. The
ridiculously cheap kid’s purple-and-pink play tent I’d picked up in a place
that mostly sells kitchen gear (red flag, I missed it) was tucked over in the
The whole scene was just overwhelming, really. Don’t get me wrong: That night it had been
pretty cool to drag all this crap downstairs from the attic and wrap it up with
a glass of wine following me around. And setting it up under the tree after our
kids had hit the hay, that was always something that I look forward to every
year now. Who wouldn’t, you know?
Then though, standing here on Christmas morning, I could tell
that I’d screwed the whole thing up. I’d taken the holiday, my favorite by far, and somehow
managed to mess it up in a way I never even dreamed possible.
See, there was just too much stuff, too many presents under
the tree for two tiny kids who didn’t even know where to begin, really. Of
course, they were flipping out; it looked like Santa had pretty much spent the
entire month of July making presents just for them. But it was all too much, and
I knew it the moment my two kids rumbled down the morning steps and flung
themselves into the living room.
My wife and me, we’re not really the materialistic kind, so
it wasn’t that, really. To be honest, I think I have to take most of the blame
for all the gifts. I wanted to feel like I left no stone unturned when it came
to the well-rounded 3 or 4 acres of freaking presents I ended up getting
I got caught up in the consumer tide and, in the process, I ended up getting way too much.
Books, plastic dinosaurs, educational beeping button-y
things, stuffed animals, bicycles to ride, more books, balls for all the sports
neither one of my children had ever shown any interest in whatsoever, fake
fruit, foam swords, tubes of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, tubes of Hershey Kisses, Play-Doh,
Silly Putty, Silly Dough, Dough Putty or whatever. I tried to load the
underside of the tree up like it was friggin’ Noah's Ark or something, with two
of everything under the parenting sun, just because.
The end result was the opposite of what I had dreamed in my
stupid little selfish Christmas dream.
My kids unwrapped
gifts with a dead-eyed violence, thrashing at the wrapping paper and tossing
the bows aside without even a glance—as if they were just leaves covering the
kill they’d hidden. Then they’d take one look at whatever was in there, maybe
poke at it once or twice, hit a button, make a beep, giggle, and then just drop
it on the ground in a desperate attempt to get to the next present.
It wasn’t their fault at all, either, if that’s what you’ve
got the dinosaur balls to think.
It wasn’t their fault in any way/shape/form; it was all
mine. I’d started shopping for them "early" this year, as in late September, so
I was able to buy a few things here and there across a pretty long period of
time. The whole shopping thing had become for me, like it does for a lot of
parents, I suspect, something I did because it made me feel good for whatever
twisted 21st century reason you want to sling at me. I got caught up in the
consumer tide and, in the process, I ended up getting way too much.
Still, what goes around comes around, and by 9 a.m. on Christmas
morning, the important players had figured it all out for themselves. By that
time everything from mom and dad and Santa and the grandparents and the uncles
and aunts had been opened, but Violet and Henry were huddled together in the
playroom playing with a castle and a dragon and that’s it.
Everything else had been forgotten by the time that wrapping
paper had even hit the floor.