It’s only November 1, but still everyone’s already thinking about buying holiday gifts. After all, Black Friday is less than four weeks away! Here, Fortytude reader and Los Angeles-based director and producer Amy Redford shares about gifting a growing family—and how hard it is to cut back.
I have never gotten over believing in Santa Claus. I still do, no matter how hard I try to banish this belief. Now into my forties, I still wake up on Christmas morning feeling like some special spirit with an eye on justice has visited me in the night. Being the youngest of my siblings, I felt like if I let go of Santa Claus then there would be no reason for my family to come together. I was keeping them together with my faith. So I closed my eyes, and held on white knuckled until I simply couldn’t pull it off any longer.
I love Christmas. Not only was it the best chance of seeing my family, for the most part, intact, but I have always taken the whole gift giving bit very seriously. “I know we don’t see each other as much as we used to, but I thought of you.” “ I know we see each other every day, but I still notice you.” I love ritual. The stockings, the cookies and milk. I love the pancake breakfast, the music, the burning of the toxic wrapping in the fireplace.
For my daughters’ second Christmas, we told ourselves we wouldn’t do it. We’ve read the books, we’re conscious parents with perspective. We spoke in clear and sober terms, “We don’t want to set a precedent of over indulgence right? We want Christmas to be about the family, not the presents, to be about charity, and reflection and fun. I mean, we have our budget to think of too… Lets get her one gift from each of us, and one from Santa.” Matt was handling the Santa gift. We shook on it, and pinky swore, self-satisfied and superior.
OK, soooo we lost our minds. Totally. I don’t even know how many presents we ended up getting. I got so obsessed, fueled by panic. “I’ll never make it special enough.” “How could I deprive her of this very important thing that will make her love me in high school!” So there we were, wrapping gifts, grouchy and hating each other at three in the morning Christmas Eve.
Morning came, and there this tiny creature was under the tree with an embarrassing amount of gifts and there we were, her parents, dehydrated, bloodshot eyes, sweaty with anticipation. We tried to coax her reactions: “Now this one looks really special.” “Ohhhhhhhh I wonder what thaaaaaat one is!!!!” Blah blah.
What was the biggest hit of the lot? The present from Santa. An empty recycled box, with a bow, filled with balloons… Balloons! A one-dollar twenty-five cent bag of balloons…some lung power, and the knowledge of how to tie a knot. She opened that one and it was all over. Nirvana. Santa knew, of course, what she really wanted.
So, Christmas 2011 approaches. We are now a family of five. A three-year-old and what will be just over one-year-old twin girls on their second Christmas. I am doing a daily mantra. “One gift each, social good, focus on the needy…get creative and crafty…do things with glue!”
Wish me luck. I am going to need it.