A few weeks ago a mother told me that she preferred to give their children “experiences rather than presents.” I had thought this delightful to hear while thinking that our culture stresses wrapped, boxed gifts under the tree (or a bow wrapped car in the driveway). I mused about the differences between hands on experiences and a iPad. And then life went on.
I had a moment of nostalgia that other evening. So I called one of my grown kids.
“So what do you remember the most about Christmas as a kid?” I asked.
Without hesitation she answered, “The live candles on the tree.”
(Her father had been stationed in Germany and had brought back the candle clips for live trees. We were extremely careful, with our “bucket brigade rules” and we did light the candles a couple of times during the season, while the tree was very fresh. We eventually succumbed and invited the neighbors for cookies and tree candles. The oh’s and ah’s that occurred during the quiet moments of watching candles on the tree were extremely heartwarming.)
Without any more prompting, my daughter went on to list the following:
- The trip to Marshall Fields in Chicago with the mechanical windows,
- Going to the ballet (The Nut Cracker),
- Tromping through the snow to find just the right tree,
- The Christmas she had broken toes and we had to rent a wheelchair to help her go shopping at the mall; and,
- Our Christmas open house when the kids invited their jazz quartet to play.
Each of the events had a story attached to it. We laughed and shared a half hour of wonderful memories, for her vivid memories.
[I will share with you that I was the one who brought up the time she got her first bike . . . . a kitten. . . . a whole play kitchen set . . . and . . . She was polite and I could feel her smile through the phone, but we quickly drifted off to other stories that didn’t have the same feel to them as the ones she had mentioned.]
Look at her list again. Do you see what she remembers with the most vivid details? Her age had nothing to do with her fondness for the event, as with the one of them, I asked, “You really remember that? You were so young.”
And she answered, “Of course.” And then went on to describe these awesome memories that enlarged my memory of the event.
So perhaps to help give your child (at any age) the specialness of the Season is to put something on the “to do” list that engages all their senses and is something they haven’t done before or in quite the same way. I believe that if we build an experiential memory, we will also build enduring, connected relationships.
Be gentle with yourself and your family in this Holiday Season.