Good-Buy, Childhood

The Cast: Bloated Corporate America (enough said), Myself (reflective).

I have failed.

I don’t know how my parents did it. Somehow they instilled something inside me that I wasn’t able to do for my children. Now, therapists might say that it may be a combination of the child and the upbringing, or that the child is just ‘that way’, or whatever… But, I still feel like I dropped the ball, somehow.

About the time October comes ‘round I begin to get all sorts of excited. I love the Fall-into-Winter season! There is so much beginning to happen, and it just builds upon itself into a grand climax of festivities and celebration! Think about it.

We start with Halloween, a holiday that is becoming more acceptable for adults to be more playful and get dress-up in costume. There’s candy and decorations and fun to be had for all! This year, my wife and I sat on our front porch, handed out candy, watched Night of the Lepus (1972), and had a grand time of it!

Then, there comes Thanksgiving (here is a holiday that is preparatory for the next one). Families get together and share food and stories. There’s excitement and festivities, traditions, a beginning of the next season… Good stuff.

Next, we have Christmas. I shouldn’t have to say anymore. The season to celebrate the birth of the Savior of mankind. A time to think of others (first). The spirit that seems to just permeate everything and everyone… I Love It! LOVE IT!!!

Finally, the marathon of holidays is wrapped up by a brightly illuminated sphere, dropping in Times Square. And we’re done. Whew!

That’s a lot. Seriously.

My big thought these past few years has been: How did they do it? How did my parents get me so excited for Christmas giving?

As a child, I would be excited for Christmas. Partially, because I was going to get some presents. Mostly, because I enjoyed Christmas shopping with/for my family. It was a big deal. Usually, it would require two to three excursions, but it was fun.

Typically, the first run was a sort of preliminary run. Kinda like, “Just see what there is, and if you can’t find anything here, we are still going to [name of other location] after here.” And ‘here’ could be the Rimrock Mall, Target, Kmart, or another store. The ‘other’ location would also be one of those previously mentioned locales. It was easy. There was like, four places to go.

The Tinder Box, Rimrock Mall, had all kinds of neat knick-knacks. From there, I once bought a half-inch long, pewter racoon for my sister. It was adorable and all I could afford. She loved it.
Billings Gazette file photo (1979)

Once we arrived, we would divide into two or three teams: One parent with one or two children, or one parent with one child and a third team of two children. Then, we would shop for family members that were not in the group. It was so simple. My parents would walk us around, ask us where we wanted to look, lead us there, ask us what we were thinking of getting, guide us there… It was so easy. I knew I had to think of the present myself. I also had to pay for it. I could only buy what I could afford. It made a difference in how I spent throughout the year, and how I spent at Christmas. However, if I ever found something so grandiose for somebody, and I couldn’t afford it (if it was reasonable), my parents would chip in, or just cover the cost. It made me really want to find ‘just the right gift’—every time.

I can’t get my kids to do it. It’s more like, “What would you like to get for [name of family member]?” “I don’t know.” Every time. Ugh.

It’s funny though, as I have gotten older, I have collected enough stuff and now, the giving is more charitable than it ever was before. My blessed wife has really gotten into the Toys for Tots program—she’s more gung-ho than I am (and I’m the Marine). This one has always been a big deal in our home (the whole Marine Corps thing). So, at this time of year, we would all go to the store and shop for someone else. My wife and I would tell the children, “Just pick out something you would like, because, if you like it, another child your age will too.” Suddenly, there were no shopping issues. They knew what to look for and get. They also knew that it wasn’t for them, and we never heard a complaint. Somehow, the charity lesson had hit home. Good enough.

The older I have become, the more I love this time of year. A large portion is still because of the birth of Christ, but also, people are just nicer. They try to be nicer. You hear it all the time. Those phrases of, “Aww… forget about it. It’s Christmas.” “Don’t worry. It’s Christmas.” “Well, of course. It’s Christmas.” and of course “Merry Christmas.” All with smiles and waves and true kindness bubbling out. It’s infectious. It’s wonderful. It’s Christmas.

This year has been rough for many. This season can be too. However, I would strongly encourage you all to remember why we have this holiday. What Christ did for us all. That charity and forgiveness toward others helps bring us closer to Him, and helps us to feel of His love for us. This is a magical time of year. It’s not about the dollar amount, it really is about the thought. I would encourage you to get caught-up in simple acts of kindness and service. See how it can improve your outlook toward mankind. Love and kindness do not have to be shown through the dollar spent. It can be shown through the time spent.

May God be with you, may your new year be full of joy, peace, and love. Happy Christmas.

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