I remember Christmas. I’d start thinking in late September about what each person in my family would like for a gift. Barb was always the easiest to buy for, because…books. She didn’t much care what kind as long as it was something she could learn from. And she could learn from mystery novels about motives and justice, from classics about life and integrity, or from Bill Bryson about just about anything. She honestly didn’t care what she was reading, as long as she was reading.
Retta wasn’t hard to buy for either, but for a different reason. She told you what she wanted, in detail, with directions and a price range. Sometimes it was written down, just to be sure.
That left Mom and Dad, who always said they didn’t want anything. That’s such an unsatisfactory answer to “What would you like for Christmas?” but it’s what we always got. Dad was funny because for some strange reason, the man who never shopped would go out late in November and buy himself new underwear, socks, and undershirts. He wore the same suit to church every Sunday and had a farmer’s disgust for things like bathrobes and bedroom slippers. Apparently real men get completely dressed before they leave their bedrooms in the morning and stay that way until bedtime. For Dad then, there wasn’t much to buy except new, bright-white handkerchiefs.
And Mom? What do you buy for the woman who spends her life making everyone else’s life easier? It seemed unfair to buy household goods or aprons. Mom shared any gift that could be shared, so chocolates or fancy teas was, if not wasted, at least not personal enough in my view. My favorite gift to her was a pair of earrings that thrilled her with their beauty. I was so pleased to see her wear them that first time that I didn’t notice until years later that she never wore them a second time. When she died, I found them tucked in a corner of her jewelry box, and as an adult, I saw how cheap and gaudy they were. I understood then that Mom would never have chosen them, but she'd kept them anyway. They mattered because I’d bought them for her and her alone, and she knew they were given with love.