Growing up, our family exchanged Christmas gifts with each other. My brothers and sisters and I each bought something for each other, and we each bought something for my mother and father.
These were not elaborate gifts by any means. We each might have had 30 dollars to divide between 6 gifts. I don't remember many of the small gifts I got for my brothers and sister...probably things like matchbox cars, comic books, candy... and chap stick for my sister.
I will never forget though...the gifts that my mother and father got from us. It always involved chocolate for mom and peanuts for my dad. Of course, the homemade school cards would accompany our presents.
Sometimes my dad got 4 cans of peanuts and cloth handkerchiefs (the other gift idea...along with black socks) It's very difficult to disguise a can of Planters with gift wrap! He loved those peanuts and we always felt like they were really appreciated. I can picture him sitting in his favorite chair with his peanut stash piled beside him. He'd joke that he was going to ration them...a little each day... so that they would last longer.
My mom got various forms of chocolate. We would negotiate (which usually meant who bought it first) who would get to buy the box of chocolate covered cherries...one of mom's favorites...along with Wilbur Buds and Special Hershey bars. She was always pleased to get these gifts too...and usually, we ended up eating most of it.
Still, even as a child I knew that these were small tokens for the sacrifices that both my parents made to raise five children. This made me sad at the time. I was super sensitive even then. I would have liked to buy them the moon...or something "better" than candy and nuts... at the very least.
As I got older and graduated from college, I got my first real job. As is often the case with maturity, I got an even deeper sense of the sacrifices encountered by my parents. As a stay-at-home mom, my mother always did without... so that all of us children could have more. My dad always worked any offered overtime, rather than pass on the extra money. It wasn't easy.
A lot of times, the "more" was always showered on me. I'm not sure why this was...perhaps it was because my sister was seven years older and babysitting for spending money...leaving me as the only other girl. Or, maybe she just wanted to...just because.
As a young working woman, I was happy to be able to splurge on the extra little things for my mom... especially. As a woman, I recognized all the special things that she did without...like new clothes and haircuts, make-up and perfumes.
And so, I had only a few years before my mom died to buy her the gifts I felt she deserved. There were pretty blouses, perfumes and Godiva chocolate. I guess I wanted to thank her and make up for all those years that she did without for me. I felt she deserved so much more for the kind person that she was. She was always thinking and doing for others. I felt like it was time someone did something for her. But, I had so many plans that I never got to do.
It was the gift of time that I couldn't give.
As is often the case... with even more maturity ...and having children of one's own...I realize that a simple box of chocolate covered cherries really was enough...and that the true gift was the heartfelt love reaching out in the tiny hands that presented the box.
At Christmastime, I always eat more than my share of chocolate covered cherries.
Have one, or two, or more this year... in honor of my mom... a very kind soul who loved chocolate and Christmas.