I ducked my head to avoid the sneeze guard and scooped out a robust serving of steamed cabbage and shrimp. Before I could replace the spoon, the female owner of the Chinese restaurant stopped by to chat.
â€œDo you have your Christmas shopping done yet?â€ she said.
I tilted my overflowing plate to keep the cucumbers from skydiving to the floor. â€œYep,â€ I replied. â€œIâ€™d say we are mostly finished. How about you?â€
She looked at my dish with an appraising eye and probably wondered if they would make a profit this month if I kept eating there. â€œNo, I havenâ€™t even started yet.â€
â€œAre you serious?â€ I said.
â€œWell, the kids havenâ€™t told me what they want. The problem is they get whatever they want all year long, so Christmas isnâ€™t all that big of a deal. Iâ€™ll probably just give them money if they donâ€™t speak up soon.â€
As I walked back to our table I felt a muddled bit of sadness. When did Christmas stop being a big deal?
I remember my grandmother telling me one of her most prized childhood Christmas gifts was the yearly orange. Tropical fruit was a rarity in her world, and the scent and taste treasured. An orange and maybe a few pieces of hard candy and her heart swelled with gratitude.
My childhood Christmases were filled with anticipation. Iâ€™d start hinting for possible gifts sometime after deer hunting season ended in November. My wants usually involved board games, toy horsesâ€¦do any of you remember Johnny and Josie West? My younger brother was given Johnny and his horse, and I had Josie, her horse, and accessories. I was in heaven! Another favorite gift was Mattelâ€™s Creepy Crawler maker. Why we didnâ€™t burn down the house Iâ€™ll never know because that â€œhot plateâ€ and its accompanying metal insect molds got very hot. Nonetheless, the gobbety gook was so much fun to mix and match that I played for hours at a time… burnt fingers or not.
Were we spoiled? Yes and no. If I truly, deeply, wanted a specific gift, and dropped enough blatant hints, I usually got it. But my wants seldom cost a lot of money. I think one of my most expensive gifts was a transistor radio when I was around fourteen. Somehow I remember it costing around fifteen dollars and that seemed like an exorbitant amount to spend on me when there were three other siblings and extended family to buy gifts for.
Hearing the mom say her children always got everything they wanted, when they wanted it, seemed like a huge disadvantage. How would they understand the joy of receiving a gift long pined after? Isnâ€™t anticipation a right of passage?
What do you think? Iâ€™ve pasted a link to a discussion about moms who feel they do spoil their children, but are not necessarily apologetic about it. Maybe one of the best gifts we can give our kids is appreciation for what they have, and what they donâ€™t have.