Monday, November 29, 2004

The Best Gift of All

It's a little too early to be talking about Christmas gifts. (Buying them, yes! Go ahead. Get those things crossed off your list and pick up your bargains before all the good sizes and colors are gone.) But all these Christmas carols and sale flyers are reminding me of how much the children enjoyed their gifts last year. There were so many things. Traditional games such as Chutes 'n Ladders, Trouble, Candyland and Clue. Non-traditional games based on TV shows whose rules defied parental comprehension. Action figures! In three different sizes! Games which encouraged us to recreate a physical education class right in our own dining room! (of course we complied. Miraculously, the chandelier survived.) Balls. Balls balls balls! That is not a swear unless you could somehow hear me saying this aloud. Plastic things with plastic pieces! Appliances that sing! Cars! Did I say cars? I think I meant CARS. Enough cars that if you laid them end to end they would poke through the outer edge of the universe and cause a miniature traffic jam in, say, Purgatory. They received these gifts from relatives, me, Hubby, and of course the ever-popular "Santa." (The three-year-old calls him Santa CLAUS. Emphasis on the second word. Not sure why, but it sort of makes him sound French.) Well I was curious, seeing them surrounded by all these things, just what it was that most captured my son's fancy. So I asked the 5-year-old (who was then four) what was the favorite thing that he got. His first response was unintentionally diplomatic. He said, "everything!" I should have just left it at that. But instead I asked him if he got only one thing for Christmas, what one thing he would want. He looked at his stocking lovingly, and finally revealed, "The Chapstick!" Yes. The Chapstick brand Chaptstick. It was his favorite Christmas toy. The one item he would want if all the rest of the things disappeared. Now, I could have been thrilled with this answer for one reason. I'm the one who puts the weird stocking stuffer items in their stockings. It is a family tradition dating back to, well, my family, that in addition to chocolates and candy canes, our stockings were filled with DENTAL PRODUCTS. Like toothbrushes, toothpastes and floss! To this day I don't know if my parents were trying to encourage good oral hygiene, or if they just forgot to get enough normal items for the stockings and they had to raid the back of the toiletries closet. I mean, they never gave us band-aids or cotton balls. We also got school supplies such as pencils, pens and rulers. And packs of cards and dice! Come to think of it, my fondest memories are of those oddball items we found in our stockings. Maybe the chapstick thing isn't so weird. And maybe there's a reason Rudolph's buddy Hermey the Elf wanted to be a dentist.

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