Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Past

As it is the Monday after Christmas, I sincerely hope that if you are reading this you are at home, in your jammies, holding a nice hot cup of coffee (or tea or whatever) listening to your kids play with their new toys in background with nothing on your agenda but another day of rest. Unlike me, who trudged into work today on my regular commuter train in my business casual to write a brief that is due on new year’s eve (thanks for that, municipal court judge).

For me, Christmas has always been a mix of excitement and disappointment. This year was no different. Overall, I would say that this Christmas was the best Christmas I can remember. My kids were both so excited for Santa. We’d spent weeks talking about what we’d ask him for, reading Clifford’s Christmas Presents and looking at “Santa Clause trees” in stores. KJ even visited Santa, sitting on his lap and giving him a hug – a huge departure from last year’s crying. Plus my whole family came to town this Christmas – an actual first. Most years one or the other of my brothers comes to town, but somehow the stars aligned and this year we had both. This meant more kids, more presents and just generally more fun. And we celebrated. We did our usual Christmas eve exchange with lots of hors d’oeuvres and punch. We played in the snow and the kids wrested with Uncle G for hours. Some of us even got seats at Christmas mass (thanks Aunt A for being visibly pregnant).

But the very best part of Christmas for me was when my kids came down the stairs at 7:15 Christmas morning. From what I understand, Santa does things a little differently at my house. Santa comes, of course, but he doesn’t wrap any of the gifts. Instead, he sets all of the gifts up around the tree so when the kids come down the stairs they are greeted with a visual unmatched by any toy store.  When my kids came down the stairs and saw that Santa had, indeed come, they literally began jumping up and down with excitement. They were so excited they couldn’t believe their eyes. It was one of those moments that makes an impression on a parent’s heart. I will forever remember my little ones in their pink and blue footie pajamas, jumping up and down with excitement over the toys Santa brought them. Their joy was my joy. It was everything you could ask for as a parent.

Of course, the jumping up and down stopped eventually and we were relegated to taking toys out of boxes and building train tracks, but it was still a great morning. It wasn’t until Husband and I exchanged gifts that the disappointment arose.

Ever since toys have stopped being the main focus of my Christmas I’ve dreaded the holiday a bit. Like a lot of girls, what I wanted most years for Christmas was clothes. Except for Christmas, my parents never, ever bought me any clothes. I was expected to buy my own with the money I made babysitting from the time I was about in sixth grade. As a result, I didn’t own very many clothes, and I was often relegated to re-wearing things. Which explains why I wore the same dress to my eighth grade graduation and my confirmation junior year of high school. But I digress.

The point is, most years I wanted clothes. And my mom was happy to buy me clothes. The only problem was that my mom would only buy clothes from one store, and she would never buy anything from the juniors department. So all of the clothes I received were clothes for middle aged women. I know that my mom meant well, but she always bought clothes she liked for herself, without thinking about what was appropriate for her teenage daughter. As a result, I had an interesting wardrobe and spent many Christmases trying to figure out how many things I could take back without hurting my mother’s feelings. It really just wasn’t all that fun.

In recent years, the Christmas disappointment has shifted from my parents to my husband. Every year he shops for me last minute and buys lots of thoughtless things as if the number of presents will hide the fact that he just bought a bunch of crap that was piled on end caps at Target on Christmas Eve. This year was no exception. I asked Husband to buy me a white blouse to wear to work. Because I know Husband hates shopping and that he would never go to a store other than Target or Kohls to buy me anything, I sent him a link to the exact one I wanted. With free shipping. And 30% off. I even followed up a few days later with another link to another store with a similar shirt so he’d have two options, in the event he needed it.

Fast forward to Christmas morning. I had four packages from Husband. None of them contained a white blouse. Husband bought me three pairs of pajamas, a pair of slippers and a work out video. I know that Husband went shopping for me on December 23. I know because he called me to ask my shoe size (as a result, I also knew one of my presents would be slippers, which, despite the phone call, didn’t fit). As I opened the first pair of pajamas Husband tells me that he knows it is the wrong size, but it was the only size they had left. Not only is it the wrong size, but it is the exact pattern he declared his “least favorite” when we looked at them at Target a few weeks back. Following this, I opened two more pairs of pajamas that not only were a style I would never wear, but were clear indications that unlike my mom, Husband does shop in the junior’s department. Needless to say, they are all things that will be going back. And, like Christmases past, I was disappointed.

I think that I am worth more thought than a December 23rd grab and gift. If Husband hadn’t waited until the last minute, he might have had a choice in sizes. Or patterns that didn’t involve peace signs or reindeer with heart-shaped bottoms. If he had spent two seconds and clicked the link I sent him, he could have had Christmas shipped right to his door. But Husband couldn’t be bothered to think about me until there was no more time to put it off. So he bought a bunch of crap that was convenient, and now I’ll have to pretend to like it or spend time I really don’t have waiting in super long lines to take it back. Merry Christmas to me.

I’m tired of being disappointed at Christmas and being thought of only at the last second. Although I sound ungrateful, I think I’m a pretty good wife and deserve better. It’d be one thing if he accidentally bought me the wrong size or if he picked out something he’d thought I’d like. It’s an entirely different thing that he knowingly picked out something in the wrong size that he already declared he didn’t like just to cross me off his list. So I told Husband this. And he took it well. But I don’t really expect things to change. After all, this year was an improvement over the year he gave me his old cell phone.

Am I alone in the Christmas disappointment? It doesn’t seem like I’ve ever talked to anyone who has expressed anything but gratitude for their Christmas gifts. Am I simply out of line? I am grateful that we are in a position where Husband could buy me something. Should that be enough? Am I being selfish in wanting him to buy me something that shows he actually considered what I might want or like or need?

I don’t know what the answer is, but I’ve decided to remember this Christmas as the Christmas my kids jumped up and down with excitement over the toys Santa brought. The disappointment over gifts from Husband will wane like the returns line and I won’t think of them again. That part of Christmas is Christmas past. 


1 comment:

  1. I did OK this year in the Husband Christmas department, but that's after a completely abysmal birthday and wedding anniversary earlier this year. I do know, however, that he shopped on Christmas Eve. I know, because we were all together; the baby and I waited in the car while he went in and bought my gift.

    I can TOTALLY relate to moms buying things for their daughters that they (the moms) would like. That still happens to me. My mom will say something like "I don't like your vegetable peeler" and then six months later I have a new vegetable peeler in the style that SHE likes, even though I like my existing vegetable peeler just fine, and needed new spatulas way more than a vegetable peeler. When she buys me clothes, she has a tendency to buy things at least 2 sizes too big...seriously, Mom, do you really think I wear 3XL size clothes?!?