Close your eyes and picture Christmas morning and chances are you will picture a particular Christmas from your childhood. Everyone in their pajamas and bathrobes, wrapping paper everywhere, Mom nursing a cup of coffee on the couch, Dad nursing something a little stronger and mumbling something about "hair of the dog." Even though you don't have a dog.
That was the Christmas you got the slot cars, or the Swiss Army knife, the table top hockey game, the talking doll that wet itself, the "fur" coat, or the new skis (for Southern Californians plug in surfboard).
As our memory progresses to our adult years we transition from gifts we received to gifts we gave. The necklace, the special book, the lavish vacation. Yes, giving is truly more satisfying and gratifying. The anticipation of the recipient's reaction, the excitement of not wanting to wait until Christmas for her to open it. The smugness of knowing a wonderful secret. Yes, the range of emotions we go through knowing we have a great gift to give far surpasses the emotions we have of receiving. Too bad those emotions aren't always put to use sooner in the gift giving process.
Few things match the feeling, you know you have an unforgettable gift, and cannot wait for it to be opened. But, like "amazing", "incredible" and "unbelievable", "unforgettable" isn't necessarily positive. Sometimes we give a gift and within a second of it being opened wish we had settled on "forgettable."
Christmas 1999 was our fifth as husband and wife and first as parents. Blaire had been born in September. We decorated the house and loved seeing four stockings above the fireplace (Cooper, the dog, already had one. Of course). We were receiving "Baby's First Christmas" ornaments and cards. Yes, our home was ready for Christmas, with a child and all.
Before we were married I lived in a small apartment in Belmont Shore and had several of the standard bachelor accouterments. In particular I had a small 19" color television whose primary purpose was that I could play Sony Playstation games while watching a game on the bigger television. Its secondary purpose was being able to watch two games at the same time--key during College Bowl Game Season. When I moved into our first home the set and the video games came with me. When we moved into the home we currently occupy in 1998 I upgraded to Playstation II and hooked it up to the big television in the family room.
For those without children yet, or those whose children have been grown for many years and may not remember, let me briefly give you what the routine is for new borns. First, while there is some accommodation to the clock, the clock they accommodate to has nothing to do with the one you are accustomed to using. Every three hours they eat. In Blaire's case this meant latching on to Leslie and nursing away. She never would take a bottle, why go recycled when you can get the real thing plus Mom fussing over you? After they eat they get sleepy. Now they have a few options. They can poop and then sleep or sleep and poop in their dreams--baby's choice. So before the next feeding in about two and a half hours, they are changed and put somewhere to sleep. Sometimes they choose another option, staying awake. They can't move, certainly at three months no walking, or crawling, or even rolling over. So if they are awake your options are to carry them around while you do things, or hold them while you sit down somewhere comfortable. Like on a couch. Watching a game. Or playing video games.
A few years BP (Before Parenthood) Leslie had given me a Gameboy for my birthday. Very cool. A little portable video game player with some games. One of the games was Tetris. "Uh, cool, Tetris..." Turns out Leslie really liked Tetris and on trips she would grab the Gameboy and play several games. No issues with me. My girl like video games.
Christmas 1999 for all its excitement for being Blaire's first Christmas was not without its challenges as well. Several days after Blaire was born partners and I formed a new company. We were working to have offices ready for business so when the new century opened so would we. There would be a prolonged period of little to no income as we kept payroll, rent and supplies paid. Uncertainty, nervousness and trepidation encroached on our economic planning. And also our gift buying budgets. Leslie and I had agreed on very small budgets for a gift for one another. Better to have reserves with the coming changes in our business than to wish later we had not been extravagant and splurging at Christmas.
Being a guy. Which most women know to read: simple-minded, short-sighted, ignorant person. Being a guy, I began to think, "What would be a simple gift that Leslie will really enjoy? What can I get her that she will be able to use with the baby in the house and allow her some time to relax and enjoy herself? What fulfills that and the budget?"
Hmmm. Well she likes jewelry. But jewelry is expensive.
She likes chocolate, but those go pretty quick.
She likes clothes, but what size to buy? The size she is now post-pregnancy? No, that won't due because then she will think I will think she will be this size long enough to get some use out of the clothes. I certainly can't buy clothes in her old size because then she will think I am telling her she is too big and needs to get back to her BP size.
Shoes? No because her feet got bigger too, I think she said that, I may not have been listening.
Speaking of listening, did she tell me what she wanted? No, I would have listened to that. Wouldn't I? I could ask her now, but asking makes it look like I don't know her, or worse didn't listen when she told me what she wanted. Plus asking your wife two days before Christmas what she wants for Christmas is akin to saying, "I have given absolutely zero thought to any gift from you." (See above description for guys.)
So back to our criteria: Leslie, baby, something she can enjoy with a baby that latches onto her boob every three hours, can't move, and she only has brief spurts of time for relaxing. What does she like?
What does she like.....
Tetris! She likes Tetris! On our vacation to San Diego she played it in the car! On our trip to the East Coast she played it on the plane! Yes, she likes Tetris.
So what to do about Tetris? Hey, I have the Playstation II set up in the family room. I can get her a Tetris game! It's a bit of a pain because the wires on the paddles don't reach the couch, but I can rearrange the family room. She can play Tetris while feeding Blaire! Genius!
Hey! What is THIS! Sony Playstation two Wireless Paddles!!! Fantastic! No more wires! Oh this is perfect Leslie can sit on the couch nursing Blaire, or just resting with her, and play Tetris on the Sony Playstation II with cordless controls! She'll love it! Double-double-double Genius!
As Leslie was opening her incredibly thoughtful present, I thought to myself, "This is truly an unforgettable gift."
Please feel free to comment below on any truly unforgettable gifts you have given.