Thriftmas wishes

Christmas present

By the time you read this, assuming you read it immediately like my essay is the first thing you look for on publication date (that’s how it is right?), it will be approximately 48 hours until Christmas day.

At that point, if you have not made your list and checked it twice, you’re liable to be doing some last-minute gift shopping at the gas station. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. They have some good stuff. I saw a 6 feet tall artificial rose once, as well as sunglasses, ball caps and an amazing selection of beef jerky — and hot dogs on their way to becoming jerky.


I usually spend the whole month getting ready. My kids understood from a very young age that all “wish lists” were finalized on Thanksgiving day. Even Santa’s elves had a system.

Our youngest was 19 when she suddenly understood that Santa’s “wish list deadline” was set so mom and dad could shop Black Friday sales. It was also cleverly designed to not allow any last-minute change of mind.

Santa and the elves had a “no givesies backsies” policy. There was no last-minute switch from “I really want a Polly Pocket” to “I changed my mind, I want something else entirely and I don’t want that anymore.”

As we get older, it is so hard to find the “perfect” gift. Our children are full-fledged adults with income and their own shopping habits. They need things, sure, but BoyWonder bought a house in July. He isn’t holding out until December to get tools, a stepladder or other necessities.

In fact, shortly after he moved out, he was working on his car at his new-to-him house. He had zero tools. He had grown up in a home that was brimming with tools. Tools were always at the ready — in his dad’s garage.

So there he was, on the mobile phone with his dad, walking through the “simple” act of changing brake pads. It all began with removing the tire — which did not, apparently, want to be removed. That tire wasn’t budging.

Ever helpful, Mr. Wonderful was walking him through the tools he would need to loosen the very tight lug nuts: lug wrench, impact driver, torque …

“I have a stick, dad. One stick.” was his reply.

So we did put tools on his Christmas list but then he had to buy them much sooner. The stick just wasn’t cutting it.

Festive but frugal

We aim for a fun and festive but not overly spendy Christmas celebration. We exchange new items like slippers, pajamas and cologne.

We are not those families seen in television advertising who apparently give each other pickup trucks (with a big red bow) and puppies (smaller bow) for Christmas. Both seem like very bad ideas. I strongly suspect Santa frowns on impulse buys.

Where we really shine is in pursuit of “Thriftmas.” This is the challenge to buy second-hand, antique, gently used and thrifted items. The girls and I love it. By “girls” I mean Girlwonder and our future daughter-in-law, NurseWonder.

I have been given a pure Irish cashmere sweater, gorgeous art prints and more. Perfect pottery, cast iron cookware from the 18th century and a stunning bust of Beethoven himself have all traded hands under our Christmas tree. Heirloom pieces can also be included in the trade. Thriftmas perfectly illustrates the belief that it is the thought that counts. So unique.

Christmas eats

The grocery list for holiday eating seems to be made up of the following: cookies, candy, more cookies and maybe ham.

That’s just my rough list, but it’s pretty much how it shakes out each year. This year I’m considering adding fresh fruit — for garnish if nothing else.

I have ordered all my groceries, created a master baking plan, and cleaned and decorated our home. In the meantime, a mouse has died somewhere in our walls (Merry Stinkmas!), BoyWonder has to work on Christmas day and cannot make it home, and I’m already questioning if I need more ham — or cookies.

To all I send best wishes for the merriest Christmas season, however, you spend it. Remember, in a pinch, antiques, household heirlooms and gas stations all offer some pretty good stuff.

Whatever the source, I am sending prayer that all your presents — and the presence and blessing of family and friends — will be extra plentiful this year.


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