I bought my first Christmas gift in October — two, actually.
I’m not one of those early shoppers, but these two were necessary somehow. Little Drummer Boy and I were in Wal-mart looking for a meager prize befitting a 4-year-old in reward for something or another. As we rounded the corner of the car section, there it was. The Transformer Aisle. I tried my best to escape it, but LDB was mesmerized. Disney World has nothing on the Transformer Aisle in the eyes of a 4-year-old boy , at least not this particular boy.
Among the multitude of Transformer options, I was amazed at how many LDB recognized and how much he knew about them. I must admit that my only frame of reference for Transformers is the big boy underwear LDB loves and the need to turn OFF the Super Bowl last February as a result of LDB seeing one of the movie’s advertising spots. Needless to say, that particular reference was a little unimpressive. But, apparently one of his preschool friends is the consummate authority on Transformers and had been kind enough to share that knowledge with my little guy. J’s tidbits of information and Quiver’s modern-day version of “more than meets the eye” were all the requirements for a full-fledged Transformer love. Apparently.
As it turned out, 12″ versions of the robots complete with sounds and movement and eyes that light up all blue and menacing when you push the buttons were conveniently located on the bottom shelf of Transformer Aisle. Thank you, Wal-mart and your mass marketing machine. The toys had Mommy red flags all over them–mean voices, weapons of mass destruction, weapons of any kind, scary sounds. But, Little Drummer Boy was enamored. I let him know that they were too expensive for the “prize” we really came for and that I would think about them for Christmas. That’s all it took.
There were two transformers I vetoed right off the bat. They were all black with even weirder names and only mean monster-like sounds. I just couldn’t do it. But, I was more open to the other two. I guess Little Drummer Boy could tell because he began his sell pitch: “Please! Can we please, please get it for Christmas?” “They only kill bad guys.” “I won’t push the buttons.”– all very transparent attempts to comply with Mommy’s toy idiosyncrasies, while letting me know how much his heart was set on Transformers. I knew right away that this was a desire from which he would not be distracted. Time and distance from the Transformer Aisle would not squelch his memory or longing for these particular 12″ varieties.
It was the first toy Little Drummer Boy had ever really, really wanted–at least wanted for more than the ten minutes he was faced with the experience of being enticed by it. It was the first time it had actually registered in his mind that he would be getting presents for Christmas. We left the store with his hopes firmly in tact and my delimna brewing. LDB wanted something and I had the power to give it to him. Was there really anything else I needed to know?
Don’t you wish that’s how it always worked? Somebody wants something, and they have the audacity to ask for it, to actually articulate that desire, that need. I think the world might be a very different place if that’s how it most often happened. Unfortunately, it’s a little unusual for people in this world–the ones in my house, the ones in line at my Wal-mart, the ones in my InBox and in my neighborhood. It’s sadly unusual for folks to exercise the courage to say what they really want, what they really need. But, the reality is that hearts’ desires are often common between us at our most basic. It’s simply up to me to pay attention sometimes.
I’ve been thinking about gifts lately, it being the Christmas season and all. More specifically, I’ve been thinking about the far-reaching impact of gifts given inspite of yourself and the responsibility borne by those who are gifted, which we all are. We all have a sphere of influence at our disposal. The question is whether we are willing to engage it. We all have the power to give the gifts people we know (and those we don’t) really want. Mercy, freedom, shamelessness, forgiveness, absolution, courage, time, words, affirmation, attention, kindness, love. They are gifts relatively easy to give, if I don’t mind giving myself.
The gift of myself is the most natural one of all, but so often like those Transformers, I must do it inspite of myself, inspite of my own idiosyncrasies, my own self-absorption, my own hang-ups and hot-button issues, my own needs. I’m learning slowly but surely that it can be done. If I’m willing.
Back to October. Little Drummer Boy’s questions and hopes remained alive. He must have asked me fifty times a day, every day: “Can we just go LOOK at the Transformers?” “After tomorrow will it be Christmas?” “Can I please get those Transformers for Christmas?” The next week I went to Wal-mart on my lunch hour to buy my first Christmas presents. A twelve inch wing-spreading, trash-talking “Optimus Prime” AND a yellow bad-to-the bone “Bumblebee” Transformer. Wrapped in plastic bags, they found a place on the top shelf of our storage closet.
Fast forward to Friday, Christmas Day. I love the moment of truth on Christmas morning when my gifts get to see all the presents I’ve chosen for them and through much love (and a little frustration) unpackaged and carefully arranged for their wonder. When Little Drummer Boy rounded the corner of the couch and saw his particular stack, the shiny, red bicycle was completely lost as his smiling expression mouthed, “the Transformers.” He just turned around and looked at me. Then, before even approaching the gifts, he stopped to give me a hug and say “I love you, Mommy.” He hasn’t stopped pushing the buttons and banging their heads together since.
Yep, I caved. To mass marketing, to total boy-dom, to overpriced merchandise, to fighting robots, to epic battles and impending doom. I completely gave myself to the innocent attempts to comply with cease-fires, to the sweet smile and “I love you, Mommy”… to a boy and his Transformers. And, it was worth it. Giving gifts inspite of yourself almost always is.