Christmas Lists

I know that Thanksgiving is two days away and that today marks a month until Christmas. Still, I continue to exist in a state of denial. Maybe it’s because I enjoyed the summer so much this year, and fall–while still my favorite season–just sort of crept in without my knowing it. Now it seems as though time is passing by faster than I’d like.

Still, getting into the holiday spirit wasn’t hard for advertisers, it seems. I can picture company ad executives just chomping at the bit for November 1st, as it seems that holiday avertising trumps all things Thanksgiving-related anyway.

The other night, Paul and I were enjoying a lazy evening on the couch, watching TV. Among the numerous commercials advertising Black Friday specials (on Thursday, mind you), one commercial stuck out at me. It was an ad for a fancy espresso maker that cost something like $150. Don’t have the cash? No worries, just buy it on a payment plan, and pay only $12.50 per month for a year!…Or something like that. I started thinking about how many people are going to fall for it, thinking it’s such a great deal, and how much stuff they would likely buy in this same frame of mind.

I used to have absolutely no issue making a Christmas list. My favorite thing to do when I was young was to chuck open the latest JC Penny catalog or Toys R Us gift guide and go to town, circling my selections with a giant highlighter. I would dog-ear the pages and make lists for my parents, and then I would anxiously wait for Christmas morning to see what gifts Santa had felt fit to bring. Creeping down the stairs and taking in the vista of gifts before me was a magical feeling.

Years later, I find myself thinking about what made those Christmas mornings so special. Sure, I enjoyed tearing through the gifts under the tree. But was it really the gifts I ended up cherishing, or the memories we made as a family?

I can smell the coffee brewing; I can hear the bacon popping (my dad always made it in the microwave). If I think about it hard enough, I can even taste the slightly burned bacon (crispier was always better, anyway). I never became a coffee drinker, and I rarely eat bacon now, but every time I catch a waft those two smells, an overwhelming sense of nostalgia washes over me.

Inevitably, I would put some new toy on my wish list with complicated assembly instructions. So, my poor dad (whom I awakened with my mom before 6 AM, most likely) and I would spend hours putting together Mouse Trap and the latest Barbie Dream House.

What did I cherish most, in the end? Playing with the toy or the jokes and funny stories we must have told each other while putting it together?

This year, I have spent a lot of time thinking about what I want for Christmas, and I have found over the past couple of years, the things I want most can’t be placed on a list. There is no catalog for the things I want. No gift guide to thumb through and circle; no page numbers to write down. I can’t send my list to Santa because the things I want are not tangible.

I want time. Time with my dad, trading funny stories. I want his advice on certain things in life that only he could give, and unfortunately, I will never get it. He didn’t always tell me what I wanted to hear, but he always told me what I needed to hear.

I want time with my mom where I am not thinking about the empty seat at the table.

I would love to have an argument with my dad about political topics even (he was quite conservative). And really, that’s saying a lot.

At any rate, as I watched this commercial imploring people who cannot afford a $150 coffee maker to go ahead and buy it anyway, I found myself thinking about how focused we get on the things that ultimately don’t really matter. Gifts are supposed to be fun, and things that you buy for other people you care about because you want to, not because you have to.

Sometimes, less really IS more.

I don’t know where the toys and clothes and other things I accumulated over the years ended up (well, that’s a lie – I am fairly certain my parents hoarded them away in boxes, but that’s a completely different story). But, I certainly carry the memories with me every day.

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