I have entered a new phase in the celebration of Christmas. I call it the “Socks and Underwear” phase, but it’s not as dull as it might sound. Let me explain.
My Christmas wish list continues to shorten with each passing year. That is generally a good thing. I have everything that I need, and lots of the things that I want and some that I don’t want but have anyway. I have out-of date clothing but it still fits. I have obsolete electronics but they work for me. I have Halloween candy that has yet to expire. I have it all.
Our two older kids are entering a new gift list phase as well. We found out this year that everything on their lists is expensive and the lists themselves are shorter. That translates into the same dollar investment from Mom and Dad but with reduced volume under the tree on Christmas morning. Gone are the days of dozens of cheap, disposable presents meant to create lots to unwrap but little long-term satisfaction. I will miss the days when something from Five Below could create smiles that lasted longer than the lifespan of the actual gift. Those fine laborers in China made a lot of smiles in my house on many a Christmas.
With this in mind, we scaled back our Christmas bonanza of buying for one another more things we only half wanted and certainly didn’t need. On top of that, Cherie and I decided to take the fiscal cliff dive and have our kitchen remodeled in the new year. That is enough Christmas for the both of us, so fancy gloves to replace the ones we already own, body sprays of apples and oranges, and books that are easily available at the public library were scratched. We have chosen Christmas on a budget, no surprises. That is our pact and we’re sticking to it…I think (ask me tomorrow).
As I said, my list was short this year. I need new undershirts. I need some socks. These item wear particularly fast after one attains the ripe of age of 50. It must be the excessive sweating that comes with middle age. I’m not sure. I am sure that you can never have enough white undershirts. My lovely bride has promised not to disappoint. I have already selected which legacy undershirts will be relegated to the car wash rag pile come tomorrow evening. Ah, the joys of the season. I tingle with anticipation.
The Christmas gift surprise factor is gone, and that is a good thing. The older I get, the more sudden shocks and surprises become health risks, so the predictability of my Christmas gifts is a welcome preventative medicine. Socks and underwear - $20.00. The certainty of my ability to pay the AMEX bill in January – priceless. I will sleep soundly tonight as the visions of sugar plums dance in my head.
I am not complaining about this holiday transition. Christmas morning won’t be boring just because it is predictable. Unwrapping is still fun, even when you know what’s under the brightly colored paper. I know today that my stocking will include a tin of Altoids, a dark chocolate Mounds bar and a Starbucks gift card. How do I know this? I stopped by the grocery store on the way home today and bought these items. Tonight, I will wrap them. Tomorrow, I will feign surprise and appreciation. Santa is so thoughtful. He knows exactly what I like.
There is one sliver of unpredictability left in our Christmas celebration. We are blessed to have an 8 year old who believes in the magic of Santa Claus. For her, Christmas is not a predictable ritual. It is a day of mystery and wonder and sugar. While we adults (and teenagers) have a good idea about how those cookies left out for Santa got half-eaten overnight, she doesn’t. There is a uniqueness in the look on her face when discovers the crumbs and nibbled carrot sticks on the Santa plate, as unique and different as every snowflake that rarely falls on Christmas Day no matter how hard we dream with pajamas worn inside out. The look on her face Christmas morning cannot be predicted. Every year, it is a surprise, a wonderful surprise to unwrap. That smile is one that a Chinese worker cannot manufacture with plastic parts or with batteries not included.
That moment with little Lucy will change and disappear over time and give way to “maturity” and eventually, predictability. But not this year. I know I have at least one year left. When the moment arrives and Santa is unmasked in my house, I’ll be sad but comforted that predictability has its own rewards.
I’ll be guaranteed the socks and underwear I so richly deserve, year after year – at least until I enter the next phase of life, which consists of receiving framed pictures of people for me to look at so I won’t forget who they are.
For you kids out there, Merry Christmas. For the rest of us over the age of wonder, Merry Socks and Underwear Day!