The kids are finally asleep having been appropriately sugared up and subsequently threatened with the old “Santa won’t be able to stop and deliver presents if you aren’t in bed!” line. It’s Christmas Eve and time to make the magic. I eagerly run to the garage to retrieve the hidden stash of presents and it hits me. There aren’t many. The box is light, easily lifted, and as I look inside I panic slightly. This can’t possibly be it.
Logically I knew there weren’t many gifts there. After all, I’d specifically planned a very small Christmas, limiting each kid to 5 gifts; something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read. And a Santa present. Tonight they each opened the “something to wear” gifts (long underwear because it’s Minnesota and #!&##*&$ cold out) leaving 4 brightly wrapped gifts per child. I try to soothe myself with the reminder that the stockings are full too but it’s not working…even those are much smaller than past years. I’m suddenly wracked with guilt and doubt. Is it enough? The tree looks so bare…will they notice? Will they see there are fewer gifts this year? Will they be jealous of their friends? Their cousins? Will they think Santa forgot them or didn’t care or that they were naughty? Will they think we forgot them or didn’t care?
An most of all, without the fanfare and the mass of presents, will they even remember?
My childhood Christmases were epic with presents piled knee high (at a minimum). The tall presents, expertly bagged, stood sentinel in the back; always the best, juiciest gifts, those were saved for last. We’d start with the smallest gifts in the front, progressively working our way back to the bigger, fancier presents until we reached those gloriously statuesque goodies, praying fervently the name written on the tags would be our own. However excited we may have been to reach our prize it was never a mad dash free for all like you see in the movies. No no, ours was a refined, choreographed dance wherein one child would solemnly dole out gifts person by person. As the receiver opened their gift we all looked on, impatient, as they would squeeze, shake and ceremoniously try to predict the contents. This process could take literally hours and we’d often have to break for sustenance in the form of potica. Once we’d imbibed enough sugar to carry on we’d head back to the tree to finish the job. Only much later, after the potica had been put away and the roast with yorkshire pudding devoured, would we tackle the full to overflowing stockings. By the end we were wading through piles of discarded wrapping paper like a Christmas themed ball pit. Like I said. Epic.
More than being epic, Christmas was memorable. The ritual, the tradition, the abundance…all those Christmas moments are etched so clearly in my mind and I wonder if our pitifully few presents will make the etchings shallower…easier for my children to forget.
I briefly think about checking if Walmart was still open…of making a quick run just to bulk up the load beneath the tree. 8 small presents just don’t feel like enough. I sigh, turn off the Christmas tree lights and head upstairs. This year they’re going to have to be.
This year, the gift is a new home and a new car when the old one died and me quitting my job.
This year the gift is humbly acknowledging we are lucky to have gifts at all when so many have none.
This year, the gift is looking around and nodding and saying what we have is enough. That we as a family are enough. That we are the gift.