The following article was written by CPF reader Lisa Buffington. Lisa also has a Book of poems that she has written available on Amazon.
Making Christmas memories that last
A few years ago, during an economic crunch in our family, I began to worry about how I was going to be able to afford Christmas gifts for my three children. I didn’t have the cash, and using credit cards were not an option. I fretted about it constantly until I had an eye opening conversation with my youngest girl. She commented that she couldn’t remember any of the gifts that she had received growing up. Not one? I asked incredulously. Oh, maybe there was one or so that she kind of remembered, if she really thought hard about it. But nothing seemed to stand out as being that spectacular. The thing that she most remembered about our Christmas holidays was how on Christmas eve I used to take the three of them (I was a single parent at the time) out to the movies and then we would go somewhere afterwords for a bite to eat.. The one escapism that I chose to do to help me forget about the fact that there was no dad at our house to help celebrate the holiday was my daughter’s most cherished memory. I was appalled. After all I had spent years slaving away, spending hundreds (sometimes several hundreds of dollars) every year to get them what they told me they wanted. Upon questioning, it turned out that the older two felt exactly the same way. Oh sure, they were aware that there had been bikes, game systems, dolls, clothes…. But they couldn’t say whether they were received on birthdays, Christmas, or what year they received them.
I have to say I felt a little duped in the whole process of feeling as though I had to create the perfect family Christmas memory. Where was my “mother of the year award” the toy stores has promised me for buying all of their wares? Where was all the gratitude at all the money I had spent and all the sacrifices I had made to try and “get it right” that year? Everything I felt that I worked so hard to create, no one actually remembered.
Memorable Christmas gifts
So that year, I started a new holiday. I figured the most important thing about celebrating the Christmas holiday is the people that you celebrate it with, not the things you run out and buy them. And I began to scale down-big time. That year I gave them what I had. It turns out that I had been collecting old trunks for a number of years. So together with the help of a friend, I restored them as much as I could and gave each child one. That was it. I have kept this homespun tradition ever since.
One year I went to a local craft store and picked up a brag book for each of them for about $3 each. I then wrote on notepaper all of the favorite family recipes that they enjoyed growing up, along with a few new ones. I included little sayings throughout the pages, such as; “you can take your enemies to McDonalds, but good food should be eaten with good friends- that way you can enjoy both the meal and the conversation.” I put in tips about buying meats, and which carbohydrates to stay away from. I also included little stories about the recipe if it was handed down from a relative. It is just a little book, that can be stood up on the counter while they are cooking and since the papers are in a photograph brag book, the pages can be wiped off if need be. So they have not only all the family recipes for years to come, but also their mom’s advice for cooking and life.
Another time I picked up scrap booking material at Ollie’s Outlet and put together an ancestry album with pictures and info starting with their great-great grandparents and following the family lineage – I ended the last page with one of their own baby pictures.
I have an interest in photography and have taken scenic pictures from vacations, enlarged them and put them into modern or vintage frames which I picked up at the local dollar store. I had one picture that I took of street lamps along a river walkway in Knoxville, TN that hung in my daughter’s living room apartment for years. Her friends were always commenting on it and were amazed to find out that her mother could take such “cool” pictures.
The one tradition that we began many years ago and I still continue is to give each child a book at Christmas. Amazon.com has many used titles for sale that you can often pick up for pennies on the dollar. In most cases, you pay a couple of bucks for shipping and handling, but it is still much cheaper than paying regular bookstore prices.
I can tell you that each of the homespun gifts that I have made or given is still in my children’s homes, sometimes being used on a daily basis. They remember these gifts not only for their sentimental value, but also because each one has such a great story attached to it. They cherish these gifts and I can tell you they are not going to be exchanged, or regifted- unless they will be handed down to the next generation.
Celebrating the joy and wonder of Christmas with family and creating a legacy for future generations. To me, this is a much more relaxed, memorable, and fun way to spend the holiday.