It used to start the day after Thanksgiving, but it seems to start earlier and earlier each year. I remember walking into the Walgreen’s the day after Halloween and seeing the “seasonal” aisle turn over into Christmas and thinking, “What the hell happened to Turkey Day?” Then from that point forward, we all do our best to add our share to help boost our lagging economy, and judging by the crowd Maureen and I saw at Toy-R-Us on the night of the 23rd, the economy should have gotten a pretty good shot in the arm this year.
We spend over a month hunting around for all those just perfect items, that we almost know our kids will hate, but convince ourselves to buy anyway because this year I know I got it right, and that is the shirt that won’t end up under Alex’s bed, not to be seen again until Spring cleaning. And it only took a little over a year of marriage for me to learn a basic lesson. Household items do not make a good present, no matter how well intended they are, but you really can’t go wrong with basic accessories such as jewelry or purses. Of course you also need to know that these items should not be purchased at Walmart or Meijer. A special trip is needed to a magical place called, The Outlet Mall, and like a fish out of water, you need to visit The Coach Store.
Then must come the customary wrapping of the gifts for this festive season, a talent I have never really gotten the hang of, and judging by my present this morning, neither have my kids. My sister Carrie is the artist of the family, and her boxes are always fancy and well put together with matching ribbons and bows. Me, I am lucky if I cut the paper to the correct width so that I don’t have to include a patch for that part that didn’t quite get covered by my first attempt. But the way I always looked at it, it was really never about the wrapping of the gifts, but yet the unwrapping. Because after all the hunting and spending, then wrapping and hiding, it is really all about the time spent with family during the unwrapping that makes it all worth while. Even in these years when we have passed the “Wow, it’s a zeppelin” stage, that magic of Christmas and just sitting around the tree opening all the brightly colored boxes is what makes the day special. It is over in an instant, but then in the next instant we get to start looking forward to next year. You see, it is not so much the thought that counts in this moment, but actually the time that counts. The simple time it takes to sit down and open those gifts. The time we spent looking and shopping for that imperfect item. The time we will spend doing the puzzle or playing the games we bought at Toys-R-Us on Christmas Eve Eve.
And much like our food indulgence, once our gift coma wears off, we will get to those games and puzzles!