(Me and my little brother seeing what Santa brought us, circa 1969)
We put up the Christmas tree on Saturday, and immediately Will went to work making presents to put under it. Actually, I think he's been working for a while, drawing things and cutting out pictures. Will is a big believer in homemade presents.
I was, too, when I was his age, mostly because it was fun to put gifts under the tree, especially in the early days of the season, when you wanted that space to fill up quick! I still like making gifts, come to think of it--check this space soon for pictures of the quilts I've been working on and just might have finished in time for Christmas.
I'm actually not a great gift buyer. Mostly what I like to receive is books, and sometimes it's hard for me to imagine that other people like gifts they don't have to read. I still give a lot of books, but I also fill boxes with handknit socks and quilts, and lots of pink stuff for the nieces, since my boys don't much appreciate pink stuff.
In third grade, I took lots and lots of quarters to the post exchange, where there was a vending machine with small plastic NFL football helmets inside clear plastic domes. That's what I got for my brothers that year. I think my brothers liked them.
Every year at Christmastime, I had a 6" tree on my beside table that my mother made by wrapping pink tulle around a Styrofoam cone. I wrapped up small white cardboard jewelry boxes and matchboxes, put them around the little pink tree, and imagined what might be in them.
How old was I when my grandparents started sending me money instead of gifts? Second grade? Third? Ten dollars--a huge amount! I never wished they'd sent a gift instead, and yet I still can't bring myself to send my nieces and nephew gift cards, no matter how much I suspect they'd like them.
My parents gave us all sorts of presents via Santa Claus, but probably the best present they gave us was the gift of family traditions, many of which I still keep. Today I spent the afternoon making small loaves of bread for the boys' teachers. Will, coming down the stairs as if drawn by the wonderful smell of good things baking in the oven, asked, "Is it time for banana bread already?" I thought it was nice that he knew the scent of banana bread by heart. My mother made banana bread for friends and neighbors every Christmas, and it's what we nibbled on as we opened our Christmas presents on Christmas morning. It is one of the most distinctive smells of Christmas I know, and now Will knows it, too.