Shortly after Labor Day they start trickling in. One here, two there until you finally start praying you’ll actually find a piece of real mail—even a bill, in your mailbox—anything but another holiday catalogue. Of course, I can’t say that too loudly in front of my children. They consider these items very valuable property. In case you didn’t know, legend has it that anything they circle with their Crayola Sharpie’s practically guarantees that they’ll find it under the tree.
Years ago I thought this was a harmless enough way to keep them all busy and out of each other’s hair (and mine). For hours there wouldn’t be a sound in the house other than the intense swoosh of their markers and a few “oohs” and “ahhs” when something really tickled their fancy. Albeit it did seem a bit ridiculous that my girls were circling GI Joe accessories and the boys were A-OK with the pink Barbie jeep, but I think the rush they were getting over the endless possibilities, ok the greedy gimme-mine-mine-mine, blinded them from what they really wanted and would actually play with. Since this was happening at Halloween time, however, I figured they’d forget their 50-gift wish list well before the holidays were in full swing, so what harm could it cause?
I learned fast that I didn’t give my young offspring the credit they deserved. Out of the blue, hours after the last gifts had been unwrapped I overheard their 4 and 5-year old voices commenting on what they didn’t get, instead of what they did get. That was a painful lesson to learn. As I got ready to serve the roasted turkey dinner with all the trimmings—I should’ve been sitting down to eat crow instead.
Well that promptly ended the days I’d let the Toys R Us Big Book babysit my kids. Thereafter, as soon as those toy catalogues would hit our property, I made sure they were placed in the recycling bins instead of on the coffee table.
Of course, now we have something far more accessible for them to go window shopping with, and my kids are far savvier at navigating it than I am—the internet. Who needs to touch the glossy pages of a 100-page toy pamphlet when instead, all they need to do is surf the net and print their wish lists, or worse—e-mail me what they want with a CC to my husband’s business e-mail along with a text thrown in for good measure.
Listen, I’m not trying to be a Scrooge here, honest! I enjoy the magic and wonder of holiday surprises more than my kids do, but when I get home from having a root canal, the last thing I want to do is play back my answering machine and listen to my 10-year old disguising his voice as my husband asking if I remembered to pick up the Play Station 3 that was on sale at Target.
This year, I decided to beat them all to the punch. It’s no secret in the Butler household that by late October, I’m frantically searching the radio stations for those 24/7 holiday music marathons. Call me anything you like, but there is something outlandishly uplifting about hearing “Frosty the Snowman” wafting through the house when you’re stuck cleaning the bathroom that five boys under the age of 15 share!
With the festive holiday tunes blaring from the cable channel on TV, I got right to work making the very first holiday wish list I can remember since my days of wearing a training bra.
On a simple white piece of copy paper which I decorated with Save the Children stamps, here’s what I came up with.
Cheryl’s—AKA Wife, Mom, Chef, Dry Cleaner, Merry Maid, Gardner, Nurse, Dog Walker, Chauffeur, Errand Girl and Anything Else You Want Me To Be—2009 Holiday Wish List:
- New bathroom shower liners (preferably environmentally friendly) for all bathrooms
- New wastebaskets for all bathrooms and bedrooms—anything but wicker
- New drinking glasses to replace the soap-laden cloudy ones presently being used
- One (or two) packages of band-aids that I can stash away for those times when we actually have a bleeding cut. Cartoon character brands not necessary.
- A dozen or so pencils—sharpened please
- A new dustpan and brush—one where string attaches brush to dustpan
- A new-aged wine opener—do I need to explain?
At the bottom of my list of material desires, I scrawled an addendum.
Please forgive my confusion. I seemed to have forgotten I already received many of these items at my bridal shower 23 years ago. Don’t burden yourself by shopping for me, instead, consider giving me something that you can’t find in catalogs, malls or on-line—a holiday season where the focus isn’t on what we think we must have, but instead, what we are grateful for already having.
Copyright 2009 Cheryl Butler