This Christmas, it's hard to think of what to get my 5-year-old that she doesn't already have (after all, she has two older sisters' toys and my old ones, too). Fortunately, she doesn't want much: some Polly Pockets, which I wish she didn't want, but she does and they are cheap, so I will not deny her and then be responsible for the therapy later on. Well, actually, I'm sure I will be responsible for some sort of therapy, but it won't be about Polly Pockets.
Speaking of therapy, we are still cleaning out my mother's house (it's been two years since she passed away). We are now working on the basement. THE BASEMENT--that is the place where all the action happened: crafts, toys, TV, records, and many other things that shall go unmentioned here. However, I found something that I didn't remember until I saw it. Actually, I have lovingly kept one block house from the set that I had, I just didn't remember there was a whole set of them! And a cloth on which to set out the houses and the little boats. (Was this where I first dreamed about being a sea captain?)
Anyway, I brought it home for Lucia as an early Christmas present from a grandmother she will probably never remember. And for almost two hours she played with blocks. She dropped her e-reader in a nanosecond, she didn't ask to turn on the TV. It's a Playschool Vacationland cloth of a quality unseen in the last four decades. It's simple. It's the kind of thing we will keep around.
After cleaning out my mother's house for two years, it's tempting to say that I will never do this to my kids (have too much stuff and not clean out while I'm alive). In fact, my sister said that very thing during our last clean-out get-together, and I told her I remember Mom saying it after she cleaned out her mother's house. In fact, I think it might be a willful act of rebellion to refuse to clean out while alive and leave a mess for your kids to clean up--after all, don't we moms spend a whole lifetime cleaning up after them?
But here is the point, the holiday spirit message of the season: It's really the simple things that matter the most. And quality lasts. So pay for it, and it will only become more valuable as memories become attached to the good things. But if it breaks, get rid of it; let it go, lighten your load. Don't feel guilty for wanting to keep things simple. What we will remember--and our kids will, too--is the dreams inside our heads as we play, and the feelings that go with doing it. And those feelings are harder to get rid of and let go of if they are not happy.
So, in essence, the true gift of the holidays is love. It's that simple. And it's free. And it's always good quality. Love brings joy. Let's put that first on all our lists this holiday season. (And you don't need an app for that, either!).
For more from Maria Rodale, go to www.mariasfarmcountrykitchen.com