Posted by: Shel | December 18, 2008

Simple Gifts

My oldest daughter (age 6)  wants milk for Christmas. 

In a water bottle.

Or so she says.  Every day, I send her to school with a plastic bottle full of water.  When she comes  home, she refills it — usually with water, but occasionally with milk or juice.  For the last week or two, she has been telling everyone who asks what she wants for Christmas, much to their confusion, that she wants milk in a water bottle.   That sounds strange to most people, but we’re used to it . . . last year she wanted a Four. 

She has a wooden clock puzzle, and the piece with the four was missing.  So, what she wanted Santa to bring her was a new Four.  She and her sister have also requested flashlights (for making dancing lights on the walls, of course!) and red socks (I don’t know why!)

As funny and charming as this may be, it does pose some unique problems, namely, that we can’t figure out just what to give them for Christmas.  But, upon consideration, I realize that this is a nice problem to have.  We try very hard to maintain an appreciation for the simple things, at Christmastime and throughout the year.  The kids don’t watch much TV, and what they do watch is largely commercial-free.  We don’t have a Wii (whee!), we don’t have Nintendo (doh!), and my kids think Hannah Montana is any blond-haired girl on TV.

We don’t live like the Amish, honestly.  And we don’t live under a rock.  We go out, we talk to people.  We have computers and TV and plastic toys with flashing lights.  But we focus a lot of attention on the simple joys, too.  Hot chocolate in cups with snowmen on them.  The little white porcelain Christmas tree with the light bulb in it that belonged to my late grandmother.  Fudge made from a stained and blurry recipe penned in my late mother’s slanting script.  Singing “Silent Night” in German.  The older my children get, the harder it will be to maintain this appreciation for the simple things.  But it’s key — it really is — to finding happiness in any circumstance.  When you can delight in sunsets and apples and freshly brewed coffee . . . when you realize you already have everything you need . . . everything else is just icing on the cake. 

So on Christmas morning, we’ll unwrap presents.  And the children will marvel that they got so much more than they hoped for: not only flashlights and socks, but also toys and books!  And when we gather around the table for breakfast, Serena can drink  her milk out of a water bottle — what bliss!

I want a little house
Upon a little hill,
With lilacs laughing at the door
When afternoons are still.

I want an apple tree
Laden with drifts of bloom;
I want blue china all about
In every little room.

I want a little path
Bordered with brilliant phlox,
And on each windowsill I want
A painted flower box.

And then — I want  you there
In sun and frost and rain,
To smile when I come trudging home
Through a dim, scented lane.

For what’s a little house
Upon a little hill,
Unless you light the fire for me
When nights are strangely still?

–Charles Hanson Towne


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