I think it was 1985 when Cheri and I last gave each other Christmas presents. They actually weren’t surprises – we gave each other Seiko watches, very nice and almost elegant.
Then, 1986 came along. No, it wasn’t a pandemic or a major earth shaking event. It was, however, the fall when son #1, Aaron, was born. Like most parents, we knew without a shadow of a doubt that he would be the most brilliant and talented child to ever be born, which became true, along with his younger brother, Adam… but with the task of growing a newborn without either an instruction or technical service manual, we quickly found most of our waking hours (which when you have a baby that likes to eat about every 90 minutes, it means you have a LOT of waking hours) were used up in caring for this new, cute little tyrant that had been placed in our arms. I did manage to get Cheri a birthday present for December 13, but as we sped along, sleepless in Grand Forks, we finally admitted to each other that we already had received our best Christmas present about three months earlier, and we could just skip it for that year.
Then came 1987. We actually began to get more than three hours of sleep in a row, but we also discovered the cost of feeding, clothing, diapering – such diapering! – and more became the single largest expenditure in our budget. Did I mention cute tyrant? As we got close to Christmas that year, even though we had a little time, we had no money. So, we came up with a plan: we would get each other stocking stuffers for Christmas – funny, silly, and cheap little toys and such, and we would take the pressure off of having to buy things we couldn’t afford. Of course, that didn’t stop us from buying Aaron his Christmas presents…
In 1988, apparently we each came down with baby amnesia, and so we decided to bring a new little cute tyrant into the world. December found Adam, and we re-entered the world of no sleep, and even less money. We then decided it was much more fun to buy the boys presents to open, and for us to just give each other stocking stuffers. For the past 31 years, that’s what we have done. We actually have bins full of funny – now probably quite collectible – children’s toys that we now plan to pull out to entertain grandkids, when that day ever happens, after we add two girls to our family.
It’s really been fun, and maybe the silliest thing we do all year. It also has eliminated the stress of finding each other that “perfect” gift, especially when Cheri’s birthday is 12 days from Christmas, and mine is 20 days on the other side.
Except that this year came. This year, full of things that no one should have to experience, came and sat right in our laps, and changed so much of what we would easily do. The Walmarts, Targets and Fleet Farm giant stores had all been places where we could go and easily find the stocking stuffers up and down the toy aisles. This year, however, instead of a fun little outing, it became a downright burden, with masks and not standing too close to anyone, and on and on. Not even to mention that apparently, everyone went Christmas shopping in September, so when we got around to putting on our hazmat suits and ventilators and triple gloved coverings, the toy aisles looked like they had been obliterated by a hoard of evil children or evil parents. We couldn’t hardly find anything cool, and what we did find was not funny nor fun.
Finally, this morning, when Cheri was off work, she asked me during my very first cup of coffee (!) whether we should just get ready and go very early in this morning over to Moorhead to what we have always called the “nice” Target, that usually has some very “nice” stuff, but that we often forget about, since it’s in another state, and takes about a half hour to get to. Contrast that to the Walmart near us, that takes about three minutes, if we hit all the red lights…
Being the kind, nice and generous husband that I am, I didn’t even grumble about the plan – out loud – and so we headed all the way over, got our baskets, and then split up.
Fifteen minutes later, I checked out with a full basket of funny and wonderful stuffers. I’m sure Cheri will be overwhelmed with my choices! I went out to the car, drove it around to the front door of the store (see how nice I am?) and waited another five minutes for my darling to come out and hide her purchases in the back seat.
I am thrilled and happy to announce that, with this morning’s adventure, we now have completed all the shopping we are going to do for this year’s holiday… beside the food we are going to have to buy, but that’s grocery store work.
The moral of all of this is that usually when we are intentional, we tend to become much simpler in our plans. On top of that, with greater simplicity comes a lessening of the burden of complicated and greater anxiety-creating aspects of what should really be fun in the first place. As you find yourself two weeks away from Christmas, I invite you also to work at intentional simplicity as you approach this most wonderful time of the year…
Word for the day: quassation. Pronounced kwah-SAY-shun. Unless you know Latin, you hardly can guess this word’s meaning. Even it’s close cousin, “quash” which means to defeat decisively, doesn’t quite match up. Our word comes from the Latin quassare, which means “to shake.” Even the word “quake” is from a different English root, although it has similar meaning. So, a quassation is the act of shaking, or of being shaken. Why this word today? Well, with Christmas just around the corner, when those packages, boxes and bags get stowed under the tree, the warning you should make to all comers would be, “Now I don’t want to see or hear and quassating going on! This is a quassation-free zone!”
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.