No matter where I go this week, I couldn't seem to avoid that inevitable question.
“What do you want for Christmas?”
I guess that's one of those things—those many, many things—that has become more difficult as I got older. After all, back when I was little, we’d start writing our Christmas lists sometime around September. Seriously. That was when the Sears and Roebuck catalog appeared in our mailbox. It was the late '60s, early '70s version of today’s Disney Channel commercials—hour after hour (or, in our case, page after page) of the newest gadgets, the neatest gizmos, and, of course, the most wonderful toys any child dared to hope for.
We never really had a lot, but we hoped anyway, and we fervently copied the full proper name of our favorites onto the list. “24-inch Baby Stroller, pink, with quilt” we’d write, or “Nine-In-One Game Cabinet, pine.” We would even add the page and item number of our choices, just to make things easier on mom—oops, I mean Santa.
Funny thing about mom, though. She didn’t see these lists as helpful. “If you really wanted something, you wouldn’t have to look inside a catalog to find it,” she’d tell us, examining our lists. “You could tell me off the top of your head what you really want in your hearts.”
And she’d set aside our lists, making us examine much more than catalog pages as we came up with what we really desired.
Like I said, there never was much, but we never felt short-changed. Most of the time, those truly desired toys found their way to the piles underneath our Christmas tree.
“Ask with your heart, not with a catalog,” was the first rule of writing our lists. For some reason, the second rule was this: “Only one doll a year.”
Now my two brothers had no problem with that, so it may seem a bit unfair to my sister and me. Still, the “one doll” rule seemed to add to our holiday fun, as we sought out the most special doll to request each year. Once it was Mrs. Beasley, from the old Family Affair shows. Another year it was Velvet, whose blonde locks grew when I turned a knob on her back. Still another time, it was a big doll with a tape recorder in her chest, who would repeat whatever I said into a microphone hidden in her “heart.”
Every year we could pick only one, but that one was guaranteed. Well, most times, anyway.
One year, I fell in love with a baby doll at the old S&H Green Stamp store in Woodbury. She had long blonde hair and big blue eyes, dimpled fingers and chubby knees. As soon as I saw her, I knew she’d be the doll for me that year. And I knew what I would name her—Ann.
I pointed out the doll to my mother, who was busy counting stamp books and debating the finer points of toasters. She glanced at the doll, shook her head in agreement and said, “She looks like an Ann.” Then she turned to the check out counter while I gazed at the doll I hoped would be mine.
Christmas morning, I rushed to the tree and picked up the most likely package, one the perfect size and the perfect shape to contain my beloved Ann. Ripping into the package, I found a chubby bald newborn cherub. Cute, maybe. But not my Ann.
I bit my lip, then announced, “I’ll call her Jenny,” as my siblings tore into their own goodies.
Later, my mom came to my room. “I thought she was named Ann,” she said.
“No, Ann had blonde hair,” I said. “This one looks like a Jenny.” Our eyes met, and I could see she was thinking about what went wrong. Was she too distracted at the store? Did she glance at the wrong doll? Her mouth moved as thought she was going to apologize. I shook my head, and she smiled.
“Jenny it is,” she said.
I don’t know what got into me that day. I mean, I could be as miserable and as pouty as the next child, especially when I didn’t get my way. But somehow, through the magic of Christmas, I knew that it wasn’t the doll that mattered—it was the love of the people who made the rules, and threw out the lists, saved the green stamps and did what they could to let me have the things I wanted most.
So, in keeping with that spirit, I’m going to tell you what I want for Christmas this year. I want a closer walk with the Lord, and closer ties to the people around me. I want revival for our country; I want food for the hungry; I want my children to be safe. I want another year full of new places and new assignments, travel and conversation, reams of paper and plenty of printer ink. I want time to share with the people I love, and I want them to be there next year when the season comes around again.
And, if it’s not too much to ask, I’d like snow—plenty of snow. (Yeah, I know….good luck with that one!)
It’s an eclectic list, I realize, but that’s because it came off the top of my head. I learned a long time ago that we can always list off the top of our heads what we really want in our hearts. After all, that’s where true gift giving begins.