My last shopping trip to Plastic and Batteries R Us occurred about 25 years ago. I normally got my Christmas shopping done early. Many years I was done by Halloween, but that particular year I was behind schedule. Not because I was lacking spirit. Not even that I was lacking the money necessary to finance the event. No… the reason for my delay was that my children were indecisive about what they wanted. The way I see it NOW… the problem was that they already had all the toys they needed AND the industry had not managed to produce an original toy that truly caught their fancy.
But it was Christmas. And Christmas meant gifts under the tree… many gifts under the tree. If my children were uninspired, I’d have to make the choices for them. So I joined the masses of other bedazzled parents, grabbed a cart, called on the Spirit of Christmas to inspire me, and started out. As it turned out, my strategy was simple that day. Buy what other parents were buying. I soon figured out what the “hot” items were, as parents stood in line to grab these toys off the shelf or to wait for the coveted items to be restocked. I found myself scrutinizing other people’s carts. In the end, I was victorious! My cart was full of toys that were sure to please.
I was lucky that day, because the lines were long, and while I was still four people away from my checkout clerk, I looked down at my booty, and I realized that this was ludicrous. There was nothing in this cart that was right for my children. This was obligatory buying at its finest! I could see the unspoken joy on the people’s faces behind me in queue when I got out of line. I made my way to a quiet area of the store, where I abandoned my heavily laden cart. I sprinted out of the store before I could change my mind.
I went back home, empty handed and decided then and there to reassess established commercialized Christmas practices. Instead of looking at what toys were AVAILABLE that year to purchase, I looked at my children and decided what they would BENEFIT from that year. Our lives were already full of rich and meaningful experiences. Why I felt compelled at Christmas to mindlessly buy toys the INDUSTRY deemed valuable, can only be attributed to environmental conditioning… Thank you, Pavlov!
So, that year I reclaimed Christmas… no, I CLAIMED Christmas as our own. Christmas morning there were still many gifts under the tree, but the nature of the gifts changed. As a family we began to explore the differences between, “I want” and “I need”, and to realize how fickle “Want” really is. To be honest, I am probably still excessive at Christmas… there is such a joy in giving… but I like to think the gifts I give today are more thoughtful and appropriate. I guess all those years ago, amid the chaos and confusion, the Spirit of Christmas DID inspire me. I am truly grateful!