Sweetest Present Ever

Over the years, my husband has given me firs, diamonds, and gold; new coats, rings, and computer stuff. All desires of my heart and wonderful gifts. But this year, he gave me the sweetest gift ever.

If you’ve read my other blogs, you know this is my first Christmas without my mom. I’ve been very sad. Missed the shopping I did for her and preparing her bag of presents. Most of all, I missed the excitement on her face as she dug through the bag to find what might be hidden in the folds of tissue paper.

This year, a butcher-block work island for the kitchen was at the top of my list. Although Dan hates getting me appliances or kitchen stuff for Christmas, it’s on order and should arrive tomorrow. But Christmas morning, he had a complete surprise for me. I’d noticed the large Christmas gift bag beside the tree, and wondered what might be in it. My guess didn’t even come close. But when he handed it to me, I saw the twinkle in his eye and I knew right away what he had done… He had prepared a bag for me… Tears filled my eyes as I dug through the tissue paper to see what I could find — a video game, red and white stripped sox, and an assortment of treats and office supplies, each wrapped in tissue paper.  The presents were ordinary but the thought was more than special He did this sweet, sweet thing for me… in memory of my mom…

My heart is full of love and my eyes are … well, my vision is blurry as I write this… I didn’t know I was getting the sweetest present ever, so I didn’t take a photo of it. But it was in a bag like the one above and stuffed to the brim.

The Santa Claus Game

Miss Santa Princess

Many years ago, one ordinary Christmas became special when I found the toy piano (requested in my letter to Santa) under Mama and Daddy’s bed. I wasn’t all that surprised, and I didn’t think this was a secret that should be shared. So… when Mama went to feed the chickens each morning, I reached way under her bed until my fingers found the keyboard. I played a few notes and then dashed back to my room. On Christmas Eve, I was delighted with my gift and acted surprised. I had to keep the secret for Little Brother. Right?

Santa was a good thing and I didn’t find it hard to play along. I wrote letters in December, and Santa kept coming until my little brother asked the question.

“Of course there’s a Santa Claus,” Mama said. “He’s the spirit of Christmas.” But from that day forward, all gifts bore nametags and most were from Mama and Daddy.

Looking back as an adult who has played all phases of the Santa Claus game, I know I didn’t fool Mama and Daddy for a minute. The tinkle of those toy piano keys carried far on the still air. Through the window that was always “cracked” for ventilation … And all the way to the chicken house. The good thing is I wasn’t disappointed when I found out. I kept the game going as long as Little Brother believed. And, maybe for a while after. He’s a quiet guy who would never reveal how long he played along.

I know some kids are extremely disappointed. For them, the magic is gone… although it was always make-believe, a game.

If I had it to do over with my children, I’d make Santa Claus a game from the beginning. We’d do it all the same, scatter ice from Santa’s boots on the hearth, slip outside and jingle a string of bells, and sneak gifts from Santa under the tree. But when the time came for the truth to be revealed, we’d reveal the real truth. It’s a game mommies and daddies play with their kids. It’s one of our family traditions. One way we celebrate Christmas and one way we share love within our family and circle of friends.

And, from that time on, the kids would join in the game. Lots of make-believe, surprises, and fun. Anyone could wear the Santa hat and everyone would experience the joy of giving in one role, and the fun of receiving in another.


Last Christmas…

It’s that time of year again but things are different. I’m taking a deep breath with a hard swallow. This is my first year without my mom.

Until this year, she was the first on my shopping list. Not because she was hard to shop for… She was easy. Said she liked everything. I started shopping for her first because I wanted her gift to be special. In her later years, almost blind and a shut-in, she didn’t need much, or want much. But, she liked surprises. So, I worked to create Christmas joy for her a large bag of surprises.

Her gift usually included a sweatshirt, or two. Some books, something to make her laugh, something sweet, something pretty, something for her dog and cat, and something sentimental.

The best part for her? Digging in the bag. Unwrapping one gift after another, working her way to the bottom, wondering what she’d find next. We watched her open her birthday and Mother’s Day presents but Christmas had to be different since we had other obligations.

She was ninety-two, her last Christmas. She broke her hip in November, and by December; she was in a nursing home. I didn’t prepare the bag of presents… I didn’t think it would work out well, so I wrapped a few boxes for her. We took her gifts to her a few days early, same as we did other years, because I’m Mrs. S C for the rest of the family. Our kids and grandkids gather at our house, I wrap presents like crazy and pile them under the tree, then there is an present opening frenzy, after which, I’m held captive in the kitchen for the next few hours, we eat, and then I’m captive in the kitchen again.

Last year was different. The Dallas branch couldn’t come up until the day after Christmas… so, Dan and I were by ourselves on Christmas Day. We decided to spend it with Mama. We arrived shortly after noon and found her alone in her room with all her presents still under her little tree.

“Why didn’t you open your presents?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” she said. “I guess I just wanted to have someone here with me.”

Dan and I helped her open her presents… she was too frail to hold most of the boxes and too weak to tear the paper. I helped her and she seemed pleased to be remembered with the gifts, but pain and frailty had taken away most of her joy. Still, we were with her and she didn’t spend her last Christmas on Earth alone with unopened gifts.

I’m so glad our planned Christmas was interrupted by a Divine Appointment that I’ll cherish forever.

Mrs. S C

It’s December 2, and there are no elves in the workshop around here. The man of the house… uh… abdicated Christmas responsibilities when he married me. For him, fifty-three Christmas with only one gift to buy. (He gets big, clear hints to help him with this one gift.) For me, a long gift list and a search for sales, a room-full of presents to wrap, a tree to decorate and halls to deck with holly, and a Christmas dinner menu and grocery list, plus, most years, a deadline.

Three more Sundays and one day until Christmas Eve. And, I don’t even have the shopping list compiled. The Mrs. S C in me wants to get the perfect gift for everyone on her list. She asks, “What do you want for Christmas?” And hopes her energy will last long enough to find each item at a price within her budget so no one will be disappointed.

Years ago, a friend handed me a small gift and said, “Here, I want you to have this.” I was delighted to receive something she wanted me to have. Maybe that’s how Christmas should be. In celebration of His birth, we share His love. Giving something we want each person on our gift list to have.

Maybe I’ll drop the Mrs. S C title, abandon the what do you want query, and give gifts from my heart. I’ll shop for the perfect gifts I want to give instead of the impossible searches for a perfect gift someone wants.

Maybe I’ll rise out of the chaos with an attitude of worship. A true celebration of Christmas.