My husband has been pelting me with the same question for weeks.
“What do you want for Christmas??”
I love him for asking. He asks every year and I know he really wants to know. It’s important for him to shop and wrap and hand me a gift on Christmas morning. And for the last 30+ years, he’s done just that.
When we were first married, I wanted so many things: gift cards for clothes, new things for the house, tickets to concerts. Our new lives together needed to be filled with items and experiences.
From the beginning, John didn’t guess at a gift. He wanted it to be something I selected. His male-patterned brain demanded that gifts be chosen with deliberation and common sense. Even frivolous gifts should be ones that are desired.
And so, each year, I gave him an answer. In the lean years, the gift I asked for was sensible and needed. Broken toasters and chipped plates were replaced with gaily wrapped gifts that made me as happy as a diamond necklace would have.
Children were born, and Christmas took on a new perspective. Intimate holidays became raucous celebrations with mounds of presents for tiny hands to tear open. But John still asked me for my gift list.
I asked for fuzzy robes, bigger coffee mugs, and favorite books to read in the bathtub when I had a moment alone. John wrapped them meticulously and gave them to me with a holiday twinkle in his eye and a fervent desire to please.
Christmases jangled past; memories stacked atop each other like Jenga Blocks. The babies became teens and their holiday wish lists were monosyllabic utterances that included money, gift cards, and — once in a while — something we could actually wrap.
College, marriage, travel, work. Our kids scattered like snowflakes and drifted home in staccato bursts of chaos. Christmas mornings were less delightful without those clumping/running/giggling voices that charged toward the tree each year.
My own life was beginning to expand now: with more time to myself, I began asking for things that helped fill my desire for self-expression. Craft supplies, Michaels gift cards, fancy ink pens, new notebooks.
Leaving nothing to chance, John always requested a detailed description and exact store location. I sighed at his deliberate system, but I grew to realize that he just wanted to get it right.
Christmas mornings, John and I met each other with a mutual smile and a cup of coffee at the kitchen table. And there, where he’d placed it the night before (as I pretended not to see), was my gift. He was as bursting with excitement as the kids we grew.
The grown children visited later in the day on those Christmases. Their schedules were full of obligations of adult life. We understood and waited calmly … the gifts we had wrapped for them were often silly mementos of family stories or sensible gadgets we knew they’d never buy for themselves.
During these years, I struggled to fill my own Christmas list. It seemed indulgent to want anything; John had worked all his life to make our home warm, safe, and secure. I didn’t NEED anything. And I really didn’t want anything tangible.
But he wanted a list. I grudgingly complied.
Grandchildren! Gifts flow now like an Amazon conveyor belt’s journey from computer click to doorstep. The wrapping is joyous — John and I relive those hectic days in our past when Christmas held joys as bright as sunlight on snow.
But once those presents are ready. Once we stack them under our smaller tree that has ornaments showcasing a lifetime of Christmases together. Once the realization that another year has blessed us with health and happiness…
John still asks. And I still tell him.
He doesn’t realize: his gift has always been the Christmas Question itself.