Tuesday, November 26, 2013


      Last year, Christmas cheer didn't hit me when I lugged out our artificial tree from the garage closet, set it up, hung decorations—string lights, our children's handiworks, and hand made heirloom ornaments—about the house, or watched the kids trim the tree to the accompaniment of festive holiday melodies—though these were all joyfully subdued moments. Nor when I bought gifts, or wrapped them behind closed doors as if some deep secret were afoot, then had the kids arrange them beneath the tree. Nor when I wrote, then mailed, once-a-year letters to seldom-heard-from friends and relatives. Nor when we received cards and updates of who did or is doing what.
      Nor when we shopped as a family to select our kids' presents at K-Mart where I told them, “If you see anything you're interested in, let me or Mom know.” Last year our daughter had a school class get-together, so we went without her, so she was surprised for once by her gifts. Jaren, our youngest, chose his own two gifts—one each for Christmas and his late December birthday, whittled down from a dozen or so mostly too expensive or inappropriate toys. But I did find him a fun something a few days later that I wrapped and stuck unbeknownst to him beneath the tree. When he went to look at the gifts the next morning, he noticed his name on this new gift's tag. But he remembered seeing his name on a different gift and it took him several go-rounds and gentle hints from me to comprehend that he had two presents under the tree. The delight I had in seeing him touch the new package (concealing two walkie-talkies on cardboard backing overlaid with hard plastic), wondering at its contents, and saying, “I don't know what this is. I know what the other one is and what my birthday present is, but not this one...” over and over again—that's when it hit me.
      Later that afternoon—Jaren's always noisy, talking—things got unnaturally quiet with crinkly noises near the tree. There he was, hunched over the mystery present wrapped in blue, unfolding an envelope shaped corner that wasn't taped down.
      I walked over and said, “Hey, don't peek.” It startled him—caught with his hand in the cookie jar—but he eased when he saw my smirk. I seized it from him and said, “I better hide this till Christmas,” and stuck it beneath my bed.
      It's that delicious, “I have to know. I can't wait. What is it? I know I'm not supposed to,” that his body language shouted that made me recall my days as a youth doing the exact same thing. My parents had had a laissez-faire attitude: “If he wants to spoil his surprise, let him.” Furtively, I'd peeked when they weren't looking, resulting in accidentally torn wrappers, which I retaped to conceal the incriminating evidence. Both times I'd peeked, I'd felt disappointed, guilty, and later, remorseful.
      I wasn't about to let that happen to him, much preferring he suffer in not knowing anticipation. Cool thing is, we always celebrate Christmas festivities at my sister's, so the kids can't nag us first thing they wake up to open presents, which we leave at hers the night before where we celebrate Christmas Eve dinner. Even cooler, a couple of recent Christmas mornings we've joined a ministry to help feed the homeless at Ala Moana park. This really re-tuned our thinking to the reason for the season and renewed our spirits early Christmas morning before the inevitable gift, football, and frenetic hype-frenzy to come. And both times, our morning at Ala Moana park (that really had been peaceful and quiet) turned out to be among our favorite memories of the day—the kids handing out gifts to humble, appreciative men, women, and children, the guests playing organized games for prizes, and us all singing out-of-tune, but joyous Christmas carols. 

No comments:

Post a Comment