Almost every Christmas season, Dave utters the following statement or some variation thereof, “Sooo…we’re pretty broke this year…what do you want for Christmas?” Besides the giant student loan debt left over from our Boston stint, we have these three kids who continue to leeching off us, not to mention the mortgage so that they have a roof over their ungrateful little heads. Oh, and let’s not forget the car payment for that sexy grey mini-van I use to chauffeur them to their ballet and Mad Science classes.
I know, I have just lamented the problems of millions of people who are married with children. Yet, there’s something about that question Dave poses that implies I shouldn’t want a thing. I should just be happy with what I have…and I am. Really. Truly, I am. So I dutifully respond with a deflated, “Oh, nothing,” and inwardly sigh at what I’d love to have. An all expenses paid trip to St. Barts, complete with a bungalow on the beach, a nanny for the kids, a private jet and a black American Express card paid for by a generous anonymous donor. No? Too much?
I guess that wish list is just a skosh unrealistic. Sadly, so is this list…
• A new pair of Uggs because it’s damn cold up here in Maine. I know. Uggs are over, but I don’t care. THEY MAKE MY FEET WARM.
• A series of facials. Why? Because I’m desperately trying to cling to the last vestiges of my youthful appearance and because they make me feel good. Also, I haven’t had one in two years.
• Just one more pair of True Religion Becky bootcut jeans. Again, because I’m clinging to my youth and because I think they make my butt look good.
• A gift certificate for Williams-Sonoma. Why? Because when the catalog arrives at my house I get really excited. My level of excitement probably isn’t dissimilar to that of a 14-year-old boy when he finds a stash of porno mags.
• Those two bunny head cabinet knobs I’ve been eyeballing for months for the kitchen but can’t justify spending $50 when I have to buy the kids new coats, shoes or food.
Then there is the list of items that I think of throughout the year. You know those things that I need, but never seem to buy. Somehow, they don’t say ‘Christmas’ to me…
• Some mittens or gloves. Again, because it’s damn cold up here in Maine and my old leather Coach gloves are exactly practical for snowman building.
• Sweaters. Warm sweaters that don’t look like they came from my grandma’s closet. No offense grandma.
• A salad spinner. What? I like salad.
• A waffle iron. From Williams-Sonoma of course.
• Underwear. ‘Nuff said.
• Boobs. Just thought I’d throw that one in. You never know when Santa might be listening.
• I’m reaching now, huh?
Sometimes I need to remember that despite the looming student loan debt, the mortgage and the expenses that come with a family of five, I am truly blessed. I live in a beautiful home with four people who love me beyond belief. Not only does my husband have a job, but he has one that, with careful budgeting, allows me to stay at home to raise our children. Yes, the budget is tight and yes, funds are often dangerously low at the end of the two-week pay cycle but being here with these children is the most precious gift of all.
I was reminded of these things this week when, at two separate kid-related functions, I happened upon requests to “adopt” families for the holidays. At Gwen’s ballet class a candy cane dangled from a length of plastic pine garland. It held a slip of paper with the gift request of a 12-year-old boy. This year, he wants a book about bike maintenance and repair. That’s it. Of all the things he could have asked for, he simply requested that book. I grabbed that candy cane and put his request in my pocket while feeling ashamed of myself for being so materialistic. My “wish” list of unattainable items suddenly seemed utterly shameful when this boy’s unattainable item is a book.
Last night at Joe’s first grade musical, there was a table full of paper mittens, each holding a handwritten gift request. I scanned the table, marveling at the sheer number of mittens there. My eyes landed on a mitten reading, “Girl. 4 months old. Plain white onsies, 6-12 months.” My heart sank. I thought of my own baby who wears her sister’s hand-me-downs and gorgeous ones at that. She has three pairs of shoes. She has onsies. She has warmth and nutritious food and somewhere in my new town, there is a baby who doesn’t. I’m willing to go out on a limb and guess that there are several babies who don’t enjoy the comfort of size 6-12 month onsies. Suddenly, my worries over Kate’s $21 Moulin Roty stuffed goose and Gwen’s Barbie’s sickened me.