Ingrid is working hard to make Christmas a tradition-full kind of experience for herself and her sisters. In my efforts to keep it as simple as I can, which seems to be translating into doing very little at all, I may be missing the point on a lot of things in the eyes of a child.
I don’t know if perhaps they talk a lot about traditions at school or not but these past fews years she has been asking what our traditions are and if we can make some more.
I honestly couldn’t answer her on that. What are our traditions?
Does taking holiday pictures and writing Christmas cards count? Does putting up a tree and setting out cookies for Santa count? Our annual trek to the Santa Claus parade? Sitting on Santa’s knee at the mall?
It would seem not. At least not enough.
Two years ago Derek took Ingrid and Elodie to his office on Christmas Eve and was released early for the day. He then took them shopping for an hour or so and I think this sparked a flame of interest in Ingrid. She has devised a plan that has each of us drawing a name from a hat and then going out and buying a present for that person. She has been practicing for this big event for a few months now, every so often printing our names on teeny-tiny pieces of paper and putting them in random hats, having us take one out “for practice” over and over again until we each get the person she thinks we should have.
I have been putting it off, running through a mental checklist of all the other million, crucial things that I need to do before Christmas, none of which involve hitting the mall on the busiest shopping day of the year to spend hours in line-ups so Ingrid can buy a $5 bottle of nail polish for Elodie that will be lost under the couch in less than 24 hours amid the dust bunnies and goldfish crackers.
And then another childhood memory comes crashing back out of nowhere and I am reminded how very important it is to follow through on the simple wishes of a seven-year old little girl full to the brim on Christmas magic.
This morning, while scheming up a plan to make Derek go and do all the “family” shopping with Ingrid and Elodie I had a vision of Kim, my mother and me walking the jam-packed aisles of Zellers a few days before Christmas, each of us with $10 in our pockets, to buy presents for our family. We thought we were pretty hot stuff! I was either in grade three or four which would put Kim in grade five or six. I remember, now, how desperately we had wanted to get in on the gift-giving action and, yet, had not a single dollar to our names. Mom must have finally taken pity on us and gave us the money. If I were the betting kind I’d say it was the very last bit she had.
I remember wanting to buy a purple “Garfield” soap and a box of “nut fudge clusters” from the Shoppers Drug Mart in the Zellers mall. In hindsight, it seems I really didn’t get the idea of giving to others since I wanted them both for myself. I may have wrapped and given them to others but I know for a fact, the stinky soap eventually made its way back into my posession and the chocolates, which I routinely drooled over every time I saw them on the store shelf, were actually pretty gross. And expensive.
Kim, on the other hand, spent her money much more wisely and much less selfishly than I did.
She purchased a large jar of dill pickles for Dad and (for lack of the proper term) a kitchen-sized pitch fork for Mom. She was so proud of herself. She wrapped them up and put them deep under the tree, as far from prying eyes and fingers as she could reach herself. I think that pitch fork thingy is still in use these days, thirty years later.
At just nine or ten years old, I remember thinking, “You wrapped up a jar of pickles? Really?” probably shaking my head and rolling eyes at how silly it seemed. The problem is, when you are 10 years old “sweet” is reserved for candy and treats. I never could have fathomed then just how sweet her actions were. I never would have imagined, then, that it would be indelibly etched in my mind as one of my favourite childhood memories of Christmas.
So, yeah, I think I’ll take Ingrid shopping tomorrow.
I wonder if, in 33 years, she’ll sit at a desk somewhere and remember the time she bought her dad a box of nerds for Christmas.
And I wonder if Elodie will think it’s silly.