Throughout the year, I purchase very few to no toys for my children. I’m too busy clothing them, feeding them, paying for their education and their entertainment.
But in October, I set a budget and made a list about 12 toys long. I figured 6 new toys was enough for each of them and the first day I could, I dropped the children at their Godparent’s house and went and put everything on Lay-away at the Wal-Mart closest to our home, only going to Toys R Us for one thing that Wal-Mart didn’t have. That was the Disney Princess boom box I got so Ariana could have speakers for her mp3 player. She’d asked for an Ipod Touch. I had to laugh. I don’t even have one of those. I also know she isn’t of an age yet, where she understands getting an expensive gift means your gifts are fewer in number. What she got was a simple mp3 player with a touchscreen that was about a quarter of the price.
December arrived and the first event of the holiday season was the Christmas play at Ariana’s school. The students in the elementary school do it. It is generally written by one of the teachers, though I’m not sure if this one was because they didn’t say who penned this one. It was the Christmas Puzzle. A group of children is snowed in with their grandmother. She gives them a special puzzle to assemble. There’s no box cover to go by, only bible verses as clues. As the play goes on, they assemble the puzzle and the story of Jesus’ birth unfolds. I always enjoy this. It’s super cute seeing the children act, sing and dance.
As to our tree, it had been up since the Saturday after Thanksgiving a couple of hours after we returned from visiting with family at my sister’s house. I think I loved the tree more this year than last year even. It’s just beautiful and I will always carry the memory of the night the three of us ventured out to get it and the decorations.
I don’t really do gifts for other people. My determination to reduce the stress that possibly comes with this time of year had me adopt a different way of blessing others. When you’re a parent, this thing goes to a whole new level. Cash for the children’s gift yes, but you gift teachers. Ariana has one, Elijah has two. They have parties with a gift exchange. Ariana had one at school and one for Children’s choir. I always give our pastors something. You almost have to be a magician to get the numbers to come out in your favor. I’m very fortunate to have a good job and good people looking after my children in different areas of their lives. The hardest part was finding a gift for the exchange Ariana had at school. The instructions were to find a $5 unisex toy. That type of thing really seems to be an endangered species among toys. When it comes to family, we had holiday portraits taken and I give them out. I hadn’t been in the pictures before, but this year, I decided this would be a family picture. I picked the color scheme (red and gray/silver) and on Saturday, December 10th, we had our appointment at Sears. I got several poses in various sizes, had one of the pictures made into a greeting card and voila! Christmas shopping was over.
It was two days before Christmas before I was able to find enough time alone to get everything wrapped and under the tree. Thankfully Elijah isn’t really aware of the whole deal yet and paid little to no attention to all of the packages. Ariana was excited to see everything there, but disappointed that there was nothing under the tree for me. I had thought about getting myself something, but time got the better of me. I assured her it was okay. Her Godparents had gotten me some jewelry and my mother gave me some money. I’ve come to accept not having anything under the tree as part of this life.
But at night I would sit and look at that tree. The recliner is directly across from it. Thomas used to love to sit there and enjoy the tree. Now I sit there, take deep breaths, watching it twinkle, and watching how the lights reflect on the other decorations around them. My eyes focus at times on the angel picture frame ornament hanging center with Thomas' picture inside and the words "Forever in Our Hearts" written above his head. It sinks in just how good, just how kind, just how loving, just how merciful, just how protective and most of all just how patient, God has been in our lives. Those are gifts I open everyday, gifts so expensive, they can't be found in a store, not even on Black Friday. That gift is life. I'm so grateful.