I n case you haven’t noticed, there are only 336 shopping days until Christmas. Last year, I had to shell out large sums of money for home and car repairs, so Christmas was one of those you-get-what-you-get years. My family understood, but it still bothered me because I’m usually that person who wants to make sure everyone gets the “perfect” gift.
While shopping one day last year, a memory popped into my head; a memory of the worst gift I ever received.
Growing up, I had a lot of grandparents. In terms of grandpas, there was my mom’s step-dad, whom we called “Bumpa,” and my mom’s dad, whom we called “grandpa Joe.” Bumpa was always there for us. Joe … not so much.
One year, when I was 12 years old, Joe and his wife showed up at our house a few days after Christmas. They had gifts. I can count on one hand the number of times they visited our house, although we lived there for 14 years. And the year when I was 12 was the only time we received any gifts from them.
My brother got an electric train set. It was pretty cool. I got a set of toy dishes.
I thanked them for the gift, set the toy dishes aside, and helped my brother assemble his train set.
A few minutes later, Joe asked why I wasn’t playing with my dishes.
I wanted to say, “Because I’m 12.
Because I’ve been cooking with real pots and pans and serving actual meals on real dishes for two years.” I wanted to ask him how old he thought I was. That gift was embarrassing and what I needed to do was get it out of sight before any of my friends stopped by. But I said, “I will later.” I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. My mother taught me that it’s the thought that counts. She reminded me of that after they left and I shoved the dishes in the junk closet in the utility room.
It is the thought that counts. But after 12 years of Christmases and birthdays, and not so much as a card or even a phone call until the year they showed up out of the blue … there was no thought in that.
We spent every holiday at Nan and Bumpa’s house. Some Christmases, the gifts filled the room. Some years, there were few, but it didn’t matter because Nan and Bumpa showed us love all year. They asked us about school, laughed at our dumb jokes and applauded every little milestone, like when I learned how to whistle. They went to piano recitals and little league games. They dried our tears, bandaged our skinned knees and made sure we always had enough food in the house when money was tight.
Those are the thoughts that count.
Those are the gifts that matter.
So, there are 336 shopping days until Christmas. More importantly, there are 336 opportunities to give someone the perfect gift.