I Want That: Making Meaningful Holiday Memories


At least once a day, everyday, my son exclaims, “I want that…” and points to the wubble bubble, stompers, snackeez, zippy sac, etc. My husband or I usually respond, “You can put that on your list to Santa.” As soon as this comes out of my mouth, I remember my parents saying the same thing to me. I don’t like hearing myself say this because I can anticipate what I am setting myself up for in the future.

Problems with this are (1) my son can’t even write a list and (2) it sets an expectation that is unrealistic. We will certainly not fulfill a list of toys for him. We don’t have that kind of money, and if we did, we wouldn’t want to spend it on toys. Most importantly I get concerned about setting the tone for my “one-and-done” only child to be focused on materialism.

My struggle right now is finding that balance between the magic of the holidays and reality.

The internet is full of helpful suggestions like: “only give your child five gifts (a toy, a book, clothes, yadda, and yadda)” or “don’t give gifts at all–instead teach your child empathy by making them give away their toys, volunteer at a non-profit, or make holiday gifts.” I see the benefits of these suggestions and at the same time I am not sure if my kid is ready for that at his age (three).

When I reflect on my childhood, it is not the toys, clothes, or books that I remember. I remember the moments. 

On Christmas Eve, my dad used to go outside and run around the house shaking sleigh bells. My step-mom would whisper wide-eyed to my older brother and I, “Oh, Oh, it’s time for bed. I hear Santa’s sleigh bells on the neighbor’s roof. Don’t you?” My brother and I would scramble over each other tumbling like puppies into our soft beds. Years later I learned that my dad was “Santa” because my older brother and I took turns doing the same for my younger brother.


My dad also used to take us to the huge truck stop farmers’ market in Birmingham, Alabama to search through the mazes of firs, spruces, and pines to find the perfect vessel to hang our handmade ornaments. I remember walking through the trees, touching the branches, and inhaling the fresh sap smells. I conjure that smell in my mind’s eye every year as I hang those same ornaments thirty some odd years later.


Childhood Christmas Eve was a frenzy of my step-mom in the kitchen baking pecan tassies, slopping broccoli casserole into foil covered Pyrex dishes, and dolloping yellow egg yolks into a partitioned platter. Her specialties were prepped for our extended family feast–a homecoming offering over thirty delectable dishes. It was the biggest meal I would have all year! I miss those so much. Now many of those folks have left this world or moved on to other places.

Here is the point where I power down the television and the devices.

I get out the dough, cutters, and start rolling sugar cookies (with ready made dough mind-you:). The best gifts I can give my kid are the priceless ones like the ones my dad gave me:

  • time to create and pretend

  • a sense of humor involving antics

  • love, through lap-time and storytelling

  • intentionality, through slowing down to make time

My childhood was not idyllic and year-round my parents perpetuated a lot of drama. They were scrambling to grow up as I was growing. These holiday moments were and are magic to me. These memories are part of my story to pass on to my son and husband–our story.

This year I have a few new antics to add to the mix. I plan to introduce the Christmas Branch (perfect for kids with allergies). Imagine a big old fallen branch in a tree stand (wrapped with duct tape) and decked to the nines in all things glitter and glam. I also want to do one of those saran wrap Christmas balls on Christmas Eve. This year will also be the first time my fella has hot cocoa. The possibilities are endless. I want that!

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