Christmas 20011 was different. After a seven-month battle with advanced colon cancer, my mom died very suddenly last May, and each milestone this first year without her has been painful with her absence. We’ve persevered, but there was the feel of getting-through this year, of going through the motions.
Atypically, I decided this would be the year we would get our kids a game system. It seemed important somehow. Our nine-year-old would tell me about all the things his friends had — the trips to Disney, the PS3s, the multiple meals out. We don’t live an austere life, but we have resisted the several-hundred-dollar game systems that seem to suck up kids’ brains faster than satellite TV. We’ve had numerous conversations about how families each make their own decisions, and how you can’t tell whether someone is “rich” by the stuff they have. But in a year where my defenses were down, and remembering my own mom playing Breakout and Pong with my excited brother and me, I started looking at ads and reading reviews.
And Max was excited about the system — the system my sister, neice, and I bought at midnight with hundreds of other Target Black Friday customers — but his reaction was more one of finally getting what he had coming. It wasn’t the Ralphie/Red Ryder moment I’d hoped for. Tommy, his younger brother, was more excited about the misshapen Harry Potter owl I’d knitted him from yard-sale yarn. And I realized that next Christmas we could have more PS3 moments, or more excited owl-hugging moments. I want the latter.
So I’m embarking on a year-long project to show my kids the fun of intentional downshifting, creative deprivation, homemade holidays, giving to others, and seeing “stuff” with clearer eyes.