I remember when I was about seven years old, I woke up early on Christmas morning and snuck out of my room to get a look at the presents. In our house presents from Santa weren’t wrapped, they were just left out where they were the first thing you saw. So I was checking out what he’d left for me, and I saw something horrible. It was a Davy Crockett suit, and it was made of white seersucker, with brown fringe, and it had a picture of Davy on the front.
Did they expect me to go outside wearing a white seersucker Davy Crockett suit? I loved Davy Crockett, but Davy Crockett didn’t wear seersucker. I didn’t know what to do. Either I’d have to look like a total idiot or I’d have to tell them I didn’t like the present. What were they thinking? I slunk back to bed and waited with dread for dawn.
Imagine my relief when we got up an hour later and I was looking at my presents, and my Dad said, “So how do you like your pajamas?” Pajamas! “Oh, yeah,” I said, “I like them a lot.”
Gifts can be an agony as well as a joy. Gifts are a form of communication. One of the things they say is, “I know you. I know you so well, I got you just what you wanted.”
Of course, sometimes we end up showing what we don’t know about someone. My brother played the saxophone, and I remember one year my parents bought him a record album of a saxophone player named Bobby Dukoff. Bobby Dukoff was nobody, and his music was horrible. I felt sorry for my parents. They were trying, but they missed on that one.
But sometimes you can surprise your kid, get him a CD or a book that shows you understand his taste. He’ll look at you with surprise, as if to say, “How did you know about this?”
And then there are the super-meaningful gifts. I remember as a little boy going from perfume counter to perfume counter, trying to pick just the right scent for my mother. This was a very big deal. And then when she sniffed it and said how good it smelled, that was the best.
I think there was a little bit of what psychologists call transference going on when I went shopping for my first girlfriend, going from store to store, finding just the right thing. It was a gold pin, shaped like a leaf, with a pearl right in the middle. That was a very big deal, too.
There’s another kind of shopping. People draw up lists, and other people go out and get the stuff. You’ve got to do some of that. People need socks and screwdrivers and flashlights.
Of course, you can’t get everything on everybody’s list. When my daughter was about 6, she wanted a pony so bad, she put it on her list, and she kept talking about it until finally we had to say, “Nina, um, you know, I don’t think you’re probably going to get a pony.” She cried and cried, but that was better than coming down on Christmas morning and looking for a pony that wasn’t there. And she got over it pretty quickly.
So in this season of gifts, if the pony isn’t there, at least be thankful you don’t have a seersucker Davy Crockett suit to contend with.
I hope everyone has the joy of seeing the look of surprise on someone’s face as they open a gift that tells them there’s someone in the world who knows them, loves them, and thought enough to get them what they didn’t even know they wanted.
Merry Christmas, everyone.
This is David Moats from Middlebury.
–David Moats is the Editorial Page Editor for the Rutland Herald and winner of the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing.