A recent study commissioned by the retail industry revealed that 64% of respondents said they had a traditional gift that they received every year. Many of these recurring gifts were practical ones, such as sweets, gift card/money, books, self-care items and pyjamas.
When you are a kid, traditional gifts are appreciated but to be sure there is always something that tops the list, that is likely not practical. More so, a child teetering on the edge of being a tween is probably the most challenging person to buy for. They are still young enough to be excited by toys, but they also are asking for the items that older kids are getting. Many parents have opted to follow the Four Gift Rule to help manage everyone’s expectations.
I think my parents always followed that rule, whether it was a thing back then or not. I remember one Christmas, receiving a cassette player. I must have been 11 or 12 and that gift is still a vivid memory today more than 40 years later. Back then, cassette tapes were the new thing, replacing the larger 8-track tapes, and my machine not only could play cassettes, but also came with a built-in microphone which allowed me to record voices and things around me – including music from the radio! How happy was I? I am sure I felt very special and grown up to have received that gift.
My memory recall of this particular gift is likely tied more to how I used it, specifically in the few days after I received it. That year we had a long drive ahead going to visit relatives in southern Ontario, which meant we would be in the car for at least 8 hours. I recall the day was snowy, windows fogged up, and the wipers squeaking on the windshield, sweeping the wet snow away. I was playing in the back with my tape recorder, and the song Jingle Bell Rock came on the radio. I had never heard this song before and thought it was so cool, that I rushed to set up my recorder and tape the song.
I fumbled with the new technology, trying to press “record and play” at the same time and finally managed to record the tail end of the song. When I played it back, it sounded more distant, but I could still hear the singer clearly and I could even hear the wipers rubbing on the windshield until the radio announcer’s voice came on at the end.
For this memory to be so vivid for me, implies that the strong emotions of joy and satisfaction, and probably love and safety all contributed to keeping that memory alive for me all these years.
Certainly, strong emotions are tied to another Christmas memory of mine, which was the year I snuck into my parents room, and searched their closet for the Christmas gifts — and found them!
I was excited, and happy and kept the secret to myself until Christmas morning. It was that morning, while the rest of my family squealed with delight as they opened their presents, when I realized that the magic and surprise of Christmas was not the same when you were unwrapping gifts you already knew about. I had experienced the surprise and joy a week earlier, on my own, in a stolen moment.
A heavy feeling of guilt landed in my heart, and probably made me sad and not as excited as my parents had anticipated my reaction to be. I remember feeling relieved after I confessed my sin to my parents. That was the year, I received the Barbie Dream House…. I had circled it in the Sears Wish Book and hoped and prayed it would come.
I think I went looking because I could not stand the suspense until Christmas, and was so afraid of being disappointed if it was not there. I must give credit to my clever mom however, who clearly had other hiding places for gifts, knowing she had a little sneak in the house. I had not found all the gifts apparently , and there were still a few surprises for me.
I would say that I too like the predictability of traditional and practical gifts. There are things I look forward to receiving, and hold off buying for myself, because I will be getting it at Christmas, like the perfume I can count on my husband to give me every year. And I certainly don’t go looking for my presents anymore.