This is for Leah. She said she wanted to hear about our family gift exchange this year.
We do two gift exchanges within our family. Sam nicknamed them — Nifty and Thrifty. The Nifty exchange is a “real” gift, with a spending limit of $50 (although we aren’t terribly strict about that). The Thrifty has a spending limit of $10 and can be something from a yard sale, thrift store, or something homemade (and we aren’t terribly strict about that one either).
We draw names about two months before Christmas and then commence with plotting, planning, and fretting. We’re a family of givers — and everyone wants to give the best gift.
This Christmas Eve, when the family was gathered — although some joined us from afar through the magic of FaceTime — I asked, “How do we begin this?”
Someone started giving me the history of the whole thing. “I think we decided to draw names, like, five years ago when…”
But I interrupted. “No. How do we begin? Like, how do we begin the gift-giving?” I honestly couldn’t remember. I’m not sure anyone else could either, so we drew names out of a hat. And then, because my memory is poor, I’ve already forgotten who went first.
She sat in front of the camera so our Canadian family members would have a good view as she opened it.
“This is every little kid’s dream,” she said, “getting the giant box for Christmas.” It’s not every child’s dream to get a crockpot for Christmas, though. That would be a young adult’s dream — to come home to a delicious-smelling apartment with dinner ready to eat.
I had drawn Owen’s name for the big gift and gave him chickens. Not actual chickens then and there. I gave him a feeder, a waterer, and some other chicken paraphernalia. My father gave him a gift certificate for a place that sells chicks. I had debated between chickens and bees, seeking advice from knowledgeable friends, and the chickens won.
Laurel had drawn my name. She gave me spatulas — the one thing on my list — and then teamed up with Donna (who had drawn Bud) to give us a gift certificate for a nice restaurant in town so Bud and I can go on a date sometime. I really appreciated that. Bud and I don’t have enough time together.
You know your children are adults when some of the nifty gifts are bourbon. Others got clothes. All in all, the big gifts are always an opportunity to purchase one nice thing for a family member.
Amanda had drawn my name. She gave me some maple candy from Mexico. Mexico, NY, that is. Upstate New York is delightfully confusing with towns named Cuba, Poland, Chili, and Mexico, not to mention Copenhagen, Rome, Amsterdam, and Warsaw.
Each poem tells a little story about young Philip. My hope is that he’ll read them to Henry.
Here’s the poem that I’m reading in the picture. The last line is what Philip said to me when I went to the hospital in labor for Owen:
Mommy had a baby growing in her belly.
Little Philip said to her, “I want you to tell me –
Where did the baby come from?
How did he get in there?
When will I get to meet him?
What will the baby wear?
Can the baby see me?
Can he peek out somehow?
Will you let me hold him?
Why can’t we see him now?”
So after months of questions
And Mommy growing rounder
One day she went to hospital
And Philip waxed profounder –
“I don’t know what to call this thing
That you’re about to do
But it has to do with baby,
and it has to do with you
And from everyone’s reaction,
it’s a GOOD thing, there’s no doubt.”
So he kissed Mommy and whispered,
“Have a good baby-coming-out.”
And that’s pretty much it. Any questions?