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Barbara Lombardo of Saratoga Springs, NY, is a journalism adjunct at University at Albany and retired executive editor of The Saratogian, The Record and the Community News. Follow her on Twitter @Barb_Lombardo.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Presence trumps presents on holidays

This afternoon, on New Year’s Eve Day, my son David mentioned that he was getting himself Jerry Benjamin’s book, “Tales from the Sausage Factory.”
Bad mother! I had meant to get it for him for Christmas. When I couldn’t wrangle a signed copy, I let it slide … right out of my mind.
Don’t sweat it, he said.
I can’t help it.
Even though though our two boys are now men -- ages 21 and 23 -- I still take a cue from Santa and make a list for Christmas presents. Unlike Santa’s, my list isn't divided into naughty and nice, but simply "Dave" and "Joe." They have mostly different interests, so they usually don't get many of the same things. I list the gifts for each, trying to achieve equality in both number and relative value. I’ve been doing it since at least one of them was old enough to notice.
Knife set equals massage certificate; slippers equal guitar accessories; Wilco album equals Sausage book … ooops.
I just didn’t get into shopping.
The person for whom the day carries the most religious meaning, my wonderful husband, reminds me that he is not materialistic and assured me that he doesn't care about the presents. I know this to be true. Yet I still feel sorry that I didn’t have a “wow” gift under the tree for him.
Since I’m Jewish, it wasn’t until I married a Catholic that I started to celebrate Christmas. One of my favorite traditions is the decorating of the tree: Light eggnog cut with skim milk (still not all that light), a CD of Christmas songs, and a happy/tearful hanging of the four ornaments hand painted by my mother-in-law, who died much too young, when Joe was only one and she was only 59. My most treasured ornament is the one she painted of our brown house with a little boy (David) puffed up in a snowsuit out front.
I was so happy and fortunate to have both boys and my husband together for the holidays. That was really my greatest gift (though I intend to hold David to his promise of tennis lessons).


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