Our four day family Christmas extravaganza has come to an end. I thought our girls were incredibly spoiled, until I heard that Santa brought our niece an Escalade. She’s 4.
I understand the desire to give your children something special at Christmas. While shopping, you can’t help but imagine their faces on Christmas morning when they open the new bicycle/Nintendo DS/Power Wheels Escalade that they saw during every other commercial break. When you have children, you want them to have everything you can provide. You never want them to feel like they are missing out when they see the gifts their friends got, or feel disappointed that they didn’t get everything on their list. Especially if, like me, you come from a financially disabled family. You want your kids to have everything that you did not.
But when I look back on the Christmases of my youth, I don’t remember disappointment or jealousy, although I’m sure there were friends’ gifts that I envied. What I do remember are the moments and inside jokes we shared together as a family: my diabetic grandfather carrying the Christmas pudding; the year ‘Santa’ wrapped the gifts inside the stockings and I opened my sister’s stocking by mistake then tried (unsuccessfully) to cover it up (in my defense, both our names start with the same letter and it was dark); the year my chocolate-loving sister opened what she thought were Quality Street chocolates only to discover a mug covered with a picture of our parents making faces at her; my sisters and I opening matching pyjamas every Christmas eve; giggling with my sisters until the wee hours of the morning, the three of us crammed into one bed wearing our identical pyjamas; making pierogi and cabbage rolls with our grandmother, Baba.
This year, I took Miss A with me to make pierogi at my parents’ house. Although my baba is no longer with us physically, I could feel her spirit in every circle of dough I stuffed, her gentle voice reminding me to pinch the sides together tightly so that the potatoes and cheese would stay inside. And when I noticed that, like my baba before her, my mom could tell just by feeling the dough whether or not it was the right consistency, I knew my daughters would feel the same sense of family history that I felt sitting with my baba at the kitchen table. We chatted as we rolled and stuffed, gossiping about family members and laughing at old memories. Miss A knelt on a chair next to me with her own little rolling pin and piece of dough, focused intently on rolling it thin enough that her baba would let her contribute a few circles of dough to be stuffed. I hope that, like me, she treasures these memories we are creating together because, although we can afford the more expensive gifts my parents could not, I believe that these are the greatest Christmas gifts I can give her.
That’s not to say that Miss A and Miss K weren’t spoiled. Over our four days of family Christmases they got more than their fair share, and our house is now filled to overflowing with toys and games that we can’t seem to find enough space for, no matter how many times we rearrange the shelves. But I had to smile on Christmas morning when, surrounded by the spoils of Christmas, my mother asked Miss A what Santa had brought. Her excited response? An orange.