The Christmas book currently getting the most airplay at our house is The Poky Little Puppy’s First Christmas. My seven- and four-year-olds have been settling in each afternoon for several readings in a row. Yesterday, I was just finishing up my third time through.
MOMMY: “It was only his first Christmas, but Poky had already learned that the best gifts of all–are the ones you give.”
Maggie, hearing this as if for the first time, lifted her head from my shoulder and whipped around to face me.
MAGGIE: WHAT? What you say Mommy?
MOMMY: “The best gifts of all are the ones you give.”
Maggie looked at me with furrowed brow, wondering how I (and Poky) could possibly have been led so astray when the truth was so obvious.
MAGGIE: (very gently) Mommy. No. They’re not.
She may have a point.
Christmas is my absolute favorite time of year, but every year it seems to get more complicated. Right now I have a “Christmas 2011” spreadsheet that I’m checking twice against and a “Christmas 2011 Our Kids” Google Doc, updated daily with Evernote clips and highlights and shipped-tos and not-yet-receiveds. I feel like I’ve been elf-on-the-shelfing it full time since Thanksgiving, and I’m still not done.
And yet it should be easier than ever. Thanks to Amazon’s Universal Wish List (of which I was an extremely early adopter and total evangelist) I know exactly what my brothers and sisters want, my nieces and nephews, even my father-in-law. (Everyone except my husband, the Hardest Person to Buy For In the Whole World, but that is a story for another day.) All this is supposed to my life easier as a gift-giver, and it has, but something is missing.
I’m missing being a gift-giver who gets to choose her gifts.
According to the New York Times, gift registries for Christmas are seriously trending upward. And not everyone is happy about that– not even Dana Holmes, editor-in-chief of gifts.com, who says that
wish lists should be saved for the kids and for the teenagers… Once you’re an adult, you should be willing to see what other people want to give you and see how they perceive you.
I’m with Dana.
The gifts I enjoy giving, whether to my babysitter or to my children, are the things I see when I’m out shopping, in the real world, and think, That’s perfect. They’ll love it. Watching someone open something they had no idea they’d wanted– that’s the joy of giving. It’s hard to get that warm-and-fuzzy feeling when it’s a bunch of adults in holiday sweaters handing one another the gift certificates they said they wanted because they were at a loss to think of much else.
Back to the Poky Little Puppy, who in an O.Henry turn of events, gives his skunk friend Herman the only present he got for Christmas: a beautiful old rubber boot that becomes Herman’s new home. No registry, just generosity of spirit. Inspired by Poky, I took the kids to our neighborhood toy store, and let them pick out Christmas presents for ten of their cousins. We left the wish lists at home. The kids darted about and shouted across the store and found things that they thought were absolute treasures, such as this sound machine featuring farts and burps for a sixth-grade boy.
The best part is, my kids have three more days of trying it out in demo mode before we give it away. Is that not the merriest of Christmases?
What’s your take on gift registries for this time of year: lifesavers? or party poopers?