Buy Me Love
first Christmas that we lived in Oklahoma my girls were five and three
years old. I bought them great big dollies with curly blonde hair
and different outfits to change into. I donít remember what Sarah
named her dolly, but Katrina named hers Gloria after the Christmas
Angel. You know her. Sheís the angel that hangs over the manger on
the Nativity with a great big name tag which says, "Gloria." Nobody
else is wearing a name tag Ė at least in my motherís Nativity Ė "Hi!
My name is Mary!" But Gloria has one and my children were the second
generation of children who were happy to know her name. Everyone knows
angels are super nice and watch over us and protect us from bad guys
on the way home from school and keep us safe from falling to our deaths
when we cross bridges and all, but they are just so much more approachable
when you know their names. This why Gloria was always our favorite
angel (truthfully we didnít know any others personally, but she would
have still been our favorite) when I was growing up and was my childrenís
favorite angel too.
My point, if I can slog my way back to it, is that the girls just
loved those dolls and they were so happy and so impressed by them.
They thought their hair was like beautiful princess hair and they
had so many cute outfits (three or four each, and if they shared,
that would be six or eight), and how did Santa know that they needed
just exactly this kind of fancy dolly for Christmas when they hadnít
even known that there were such pretty dolls in the whole world???
You see where I am going with this. There is absolutely nothing that
you can give a child past a certain age which will be met with such
unbridled enthusiasm. Do not fool yourself. Do not think to yourself,
this is it, the yearís Christmas present is going to be the end-all
and be-all. You will never see that kind of pure amazed and amazing
joy again unless you have some nieces and nephews in the right age
range or grandchildren, or even more children if you are that brave.
My point is that beyond the age of around 14 you might as well just
forget it, hang it up and surrender to the fact that your children
will probably prefer money over any other gift that you can give them.
Except possibly for jewelry, and then it had better be the good stuff.
I am not saying that children are greedy. Well, they are greedy, but
they are supposed to be like that. Itís a survival mechanism. Youíre
supposed to know when to quit being greedy, but it is perfectly okay
for the first couple of decades of your life. It is not greed that
makes them prefer to have money for a gift. It is aesthetics. They
know exactly what they like. They know that while you might be able,
as the person who loves them most in their lives, to understand the
basic gist of what they like, there is no way, no how, that you will
ever be able to understand the exact right thing. You might know that
they like clothes. More specifically that they like black clothes.
You may understand the further qualifier that they like black clothes
that have some kind of retro flair. But you will never, ever get the
subtle difference in nuance that makes the Care Bears cool for a 19
year old, but which also dictates that The Partridge Family is so
far from cool that they donít even belong in the same universe. And
so, as a logical extension of that, you will always get them the exact
wrong thing. The worst possible thing in a particular category. And
that is just sad for everybody.
So, the best thing to do is to remember those Christmas mornings when
you were blessed to hear your child either sigh, "Oh Mama! Look at
this!" or were obliged to cover your ears to protect them from the
joyous whooping and hollering that the perfect Christmas gift inspired.
Remember those days and cherish them and then resign yourself to stuffing
an envelope and getting a dry peck on the cheek and a muttered, "Thanks
Mom" for your trouble. While not exactly the same thing, that sigh
or whoop and the nonplused, "Thanks," really are in the same category.
© Elizabeth Bussey Sowdal
"The Girl Detective's Theory
December 16, 2007 Column
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