The season of giving is here, again. Silent Night plays on the radio taking me out of this early December moment on a journey back in time. However, the past is not where I want to nest, so, thank goodness, I can work on my To Do list. Number one, gifts to give family, people who already have enough things. Interestingly, even though we don’t want stuff, some of us still enjoy the just right Christmas gift wrapped with a big red bow. We want to be surprised. Like the little tea bag saucer, Susan gave me. Or the elf statue from Ruth. The succulent plant in an earthenware pot from Barbara that doesn’t need sunlight and survives on one watering a month.
Back, back, back in time, after our first date, my husband-to-be sent me a beautiful bouquet. “Thank you, Tim,” talking on a wall-mounted phone twirling my fingers through the coil cord. He asked if I liked the flowers. It’s a dating phase one question when we know the answer, and it makes us good to hear it expressed. Of course, Edith liked the flowers. It’s what women do. They like flowers. This time it misfired. “The flowers are beautiful, but I could really have used a pair of shoes.” Tim didn’t expect that. But it’s best to start a relationship on the truth foot. Also, with little money in either of our purse/wallet, flowers seemed frivolous. But, when one person’s mom cleans people’s homes for a living, and the other person’s mom has a full-time maid, frivolous takes on a different meaning.
Over the years, showering my children and grandchildren with birthday, Christmas, and “just because gifts,” it’s no longer rewarding, needed, or appreciated. So, I stopped buying gifts for my kids. Doubtful my kids could come up with the last five Christmas gifts from us. Same is true for me. Did I get a Patagonia vest for the boys or a North Face Jacket for the girls?
Also, the days of finding something my grandchildren NEED have ended. They do not lack in material stuff. Amanda, the oldest grandchild, lucked out. She’ll remember her gifts of experiences — the trip to Iceland that included horses, white water rafting, and jeeping across the glacier, and a ski weekend in Colorado. But as the number of grandchildren grew, 2-3-4-8 to 13, this was no longer feasible. A question, when does Christmas gifting for grandchildren end. There has to be an end. For me, the answer is high school graduation.
Today, with six grands, eight and younger and one in high school, the giving continues. Often I will knit something for them or make a date for high tea or go to the theatre as their gift. Other times, I try to come up with something new and (hopefully)fun. Here are a few successful gifts.
For younger grands, a 3-month subscription to kiwico.com of hands-on science experiments. My daughters gave this a big thumb up. Even Dr. Yoder, my dentist, mentioned putting together kiwi crate projects with his first-grade son. I’ve purchased kiwi boxes in anticipation of a grandchild visiting. One time we made a skeleton together and took it into a dark bathroom to see it glow — exciting stuff.
Mostly, little ones just love having our full attention away from the competition, other family members. A gift of memory, date with Amma and Afi (grandma and grandpa), time away from technology. We took a grandson to a place called Tiny Town with little houses, a train ride, a kid-friendly restaurant with a pet rooster meandering around looking to be fed, then an ice cream soda shop. He talked uninterrupted the whole time.
A gift for teenagers, a Kiva gift card (kiva.com). The gift certificate can be printed or sent. They choose whom to lend the money to, low-income entrepreneurs and students in over 80 countries. Our grandchildren gain an insight into people’s circumstances and aspirations. The money is re-lent, or they can cash out and keep the money for themselves. Kiva’s mission is “to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty.” Kiva will let you know before the gift certificate expires (one year) if the grandkids don’t lend the money. Then you can lend it or cash out.
Gift card for letote.com for daughters to experiment with different clothes. However, this requires them to sign up for Letote. Although they can cancel right after using the gift card, they could also forget creating a money problem for themselves. But for the right person, it could be fun.
Writing a letter and sending it via snail mail telling them (funny) stories about their mom/dad. Send a copy of an old report card. They love that — a little window into a world before they arrived.
Grandkids visiting by themselves is the best of the best. To get reacquainted. Surely and truly, gifts of time and love will always be the most crucial ingredients for a truly merry Christmas memory.