Maybe I had a famished childhood! I only remember two Christmases with my parents. When I was about 10, the family woke to our beautifully decorated Christmas tree a-shambles after our cat spent the early-morning hours knocking ornaments off the tree while our dog (thinking they made great balls) broke them into pieces. Dad laughed, but Mom didn’t think there was anything funny about it.
My other Christmas memory was when, just 20 and married, my folks gave me my great-grandmother’s clock; it was the best Christmas present ever, the only one I remember as a “Christmas memory.” I cherish the clock and memory of great-grandmother. The clock always will have an honored place in my home.
Today, as a mother and granny, I struggle with what to give the kids. I want my gift remembered amongst the frenzy on the big day, which is not a very realistic “want” with bowed and spangled gifts from multiple grandparents in our often multiple-parent society. Many of my friends just give gift cards or money. I am not a gift cards granny. I like to give personal gifts. The quandary is what is that one right gift?
My two Christmas memories (and lack of any others) give a hint. My family did not have family “traditions.” There was no activity we did as a family. We got together with the same friends; the adults had their traditional creme de menthe. That was about it.
Today, many of my friends have Christmas traditions. Every Christmas evening one family reads the Christmas story to the grandchildren and then the children and grands share musical talents. Another family plans a “12 days of Christmas” event it anonymously shares with someone. Another graces a neighborhood with Christmas carols and gathers for hot cocoa afterward. Traditions make Christmas and other holidays memorable.
Gifting is harder to make memorable, but it can be done. My grandmother’s clock is an example. How many of us have a family item that is cherished by a child or grandchild? Why wait to “will” it to them? Share the smile now and see it grace their home. My grandson loves my everyday flatware. It was my mother’s and is quite unique. Not quite ready to part with it, I gave him a piece as a pact that it is his when I am done with it.
As part of my husband’s family tradition, we passed his advent tree onto a grandchild. Each year I give a piece of my mother’s jewelry to my daughter. Annually, as I downsize, I set aside something from the family heirlooms to place under a child’s tree. Not only does this unclutter my home and save “gifting” money, but the gift has a “stop the Christmas chaos” effect and provides a moment for mom or dad to share a family memory. Moment and memory — so closely aligned in their spelling and sound — so subtly aligned in their importance to provide intimacy with our most precious gift — our family.
No family traditions or heirlooms to share? Never fear. Yes, you do. In my quest for the memorable gift for my grandsons, I devised my own tradition. Instead of more gifts than anyone needs under any Christmas tree, I give a 12-day gift. Starting on the 12th, I give small gifts for the next 12 days, anything from a dime-store toy car, small nativity or read-along book. I intersperse just-for-fun gifts with some “reason for the season” gifts and one or two gifts I made especially for the grandchild or family.
The 12-day Christmas gift is loved by my family. It extends the excitement of Christmas morning without the chaos and lets them know I think of them every day.
Another precious family gift is a gift of family. Genealogy and family history are all the rage, for good reason. It is proven that learning about one’s ancestors improves a child’s self-worth. In a society in which mass-everything tends to deflate the importance of a child’s presence, emphasizing his or her worth is the most important gift we can give.
Learning about our ancestors and their lives has never been easier. Free websites let you gather information and give you helpful tips. FamilySearch.org, Rootsweb.org and WikiTree are only a few. If you don’t have a computer, Boulder City has its own family history library, free of charge, at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on the corner of Fifth Street across from the high school. The librarians will help you get started.
Or just write up some memories from your childhood. Make your own book for a grandchild. List your name, your parents’ names, any birthdates and places that you know, and your memories. Include some family pictures, making sure you write on the back of the picture the name and approximate date of the picture.
Creating a small photo album of a young child, the child’s parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and other family members is a wonderful gift to give even a 1-year old, helping that child feel his or her family ties at an early age.
“No two people— no mere father and mother — as I have often said, are enough to provide emotional security for a child. He needs to feel himself one in a world of kinfolk, persons of variety in age and temperament, and allied by an indissoluble bond that he cannot break if he could, for nature has welded him into it before he was born.” — Pearl S. Buck.
Your memories, and the lessons you have learned, are the best gift you will ever give your family.
— Cat Trico has been a resident of Boulder City since 2003 and is a past president of the Senior Center of Boulder City and co-founder of the Decker Lake Wetlands Preserve. As an author and editor, she contributed to “Rights, Responsibilities, and Relationships” for youth. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.