I can imagine that there are some children--tummies full of delicious, home-cooked delicacies--who are intent on writing down their Christmas wish lists Thanksgiving evening. I can imagine their mother handing them a sheet of paper and a pencil (or, perhaps, a crayon) while their father encourages them to think of what they want for Christmas. I can picture their petite bodies stretched upon the floor, their fingers desperately clutching said pencil or pen or crayon or marker, eagerly scribbling what their precious hearts long for.
I was never one of those children. Divorced since I was ten months old, my parents have had their own methods of discovering what I wanted for Christmas.
When I was younger, for instance, I'm sure my dad put more effort into finding me toys. Surprisingly, and yet truthfully, one of my favorite Christmas mornings was a year I spent at my dad's house. I was six, in first grade, and was an avid fan of The Lion King. Having seen the movie in theaters, I had memorized several of the hit songs and had my own stuffed "Nala" to sleep with. When I awoke Christmas morning to the sounds of my step-siblings yelling for my brother and I to wake up, I eagerly jumped out of bed and raced up the steps (we were sleeping on the lower level; the "fireplace floor") to the large, over-sized Christmas tree. There was no need to scan over Santa's presents for my brother and step-brother and sister, for my eyes immediately latched onto what had been reserved for me: a stuffed "Simba" and a giant, two-and-a-half-foot long "Mufasa."
I'm sure that "Santa" knew to leave because my mother had informed him of what to purchase.
However, as I got older, my dad's side of the family conferred less frequently with my mother (not they ever really did in the first place). By the time I was eight or nine, my mother no longer held whispered phone calls in another room. Rather, my dad's family took to purchasing what they thought I should have. I no longer received fifteen Beanie Babies or five LEGO kits or a giant Barbie van. Rather, I was given enormous, decorative pins; turtlenecks (which I utterly despised at the time), clothes that were either too small or too ugly to wear; heirlooms (which I didn't appreciate), and adornments for my hair (which, to this day, I never bother with).
One of two strange gifts I received from my dad's family included a seashell-shaped sound machine that, with its haunting echoes of a thunderstorm, chirping birds, and heartbeat, never lulled me to sleep. The other gift, which I received at the age of nine, was a book of Emily Dickinson poetry. My aunt, apparently disillusioned to Miss Dickinson's eccentricities, "loved" her work. She lightly spoke of it then, which, today, gives me the impression that my aunt may not recognize the "depressing" themes that emerged in Dickinson's works once she locked herself in the attic (allegedly).
My mother, however, has always been more tactful. I can remember when, during the years we lived in "the yellow house," she would hand me the two-pound JC Penny cataloge and instruct me to circle "anything I wanted." At five years old, I would flip through the entire magazine, examining each page thoroughly before, finally, reaching the toys at the back. My eyes would glow, my heart would race, and my sparkling smile would calculate what toys would be reasonable. I would spend hours on end scrutinizing the dolls, the doll-houses, the coloring sets, and, of course, the Barbies. Ultimately, I would circle three or four things in the magazine, telling myself that "a few things" was reasonable and unselfish.
Those were the years that my family didn't have a lot of money. Openly discussing our situation with my brother and I, we were all aware of our poorness. And yet, each Christmas morning, each item that I had marked in that JC Penny catalog would be waiting for me; a gift from "Santa." At the time, I believed in "Christmas magic," and was awed by the sights of my heart's desires.
Today, however, when I think of the sacrifices my mother made to keep her children overwhelmingly joyful, tears well in my eyes. She has never failed me, not once.
Having raised me, she knows me incredibly well, and can anticipate whether or not I will like a gift. I know my critical attitude makes me a hard person to please, and--as a result--she struggles in finding me the "right" thing. This year, for instance, she took it upon herself to collaborate with A. and purchase a camera for me. As it turned out, the camera that she bought was not quite what I was looking for. She had been so eager to purchase one for me, as I had been forever complaining about my broken flash and use of AA batteries. However, when she went to buy the actual camera, she made the mistake of being talked into purchasing a specific one by a salesperson.
My poor mother; she tries so desperately hard, and I truly appreciate it. In fact, I love her for it. I only wish that she would not let her impulsiveness (which I inherited, by the way) take over her, especially during the Christmas shopping season.
When I talk to my mom on the phone about Christmas presents, she always tells me that she has "no idea what to get [me]". In reality, though, I think she does. I know she doesn't wish for me to tell her exactly what I want; after all, it isn't a surprise then. She wants to be just as excited as I am when I open my present and realize the time and money it took for her to purchase it. That's probably why the only specific things I told her I needed were...socks and underwear.
However, that's not to say that my mother doesn't know what she's doing. She knows exactly what she's doing. Her only intent is to make me happy and, honestly, I can say that just being in her presence this holiday season will be enough for me. After last Christmas, any joy I feel this year will be astronomical.