Mine is a cautionary tale, one of harried wrapping,
misplaced presents and bins full of trash. Overwhelmed Christmas celebrants:
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
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
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
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,
momentary problem solved. Larger issue (out-of-control holiday, disorganized
parents) is still awaiting resolution.