I was well into my 20’s before I realized that Santa wrapped presents for other kids.
Every Christmas morning I’d wake up with my brothers, and we’d race out to the living room of my parents tiny ranch house to see what Santa had left us. You could generally tell by the piles of gifts which presents Santa had left for whom. Anything baseball related was mine, and anything else I didn’t care about it.
Especially the Barbies that were left for me in an effort to sway my interests.
I never thought twice about the lack of wrapping until a friend and I were discussing this after I graduated from college.
You mean your parents actually wrapped the presents from Santa? I asked, flabbergasted. Really?
You mean your parents didn’t? She asked, equally incredulous.
One day a few years ago I asked my mom about not wrapping gifts for us. “It was a way to save money,” she said. “Every little bit counts.”
I’ve said before that my dad lost his job in the steel mills when I was a kid, and there were some years where things were lean. We tease my mom about her frugality now. She buys slightly expired bread “it’s still good,” she says; never buys anything without a coupon, and will drive an extra five miles out of the way to save 3 cents a gallon on gas. Without my mom’s efforts, I’m not sure where we would have been back then, or even now.
My mom doesn’t like us spending our money on her either. In fact, her favorite gift from me is the slightly cracked pot of flowers I picked up in the middle of the road one day 20 years ago.
I think they were funeral flowers that fell out of a delivery truck. And she was like OMG! Best. Gift. Ever. (She doesn’t believe me now when I try to pass off that the new sweater I bought her came from the side of the street. But I try.)
Every little bit counts.
I think about this now, when I’m looking for ways to save money. I think about it when I make the decision to walk up the flights of stairs at the Portland Jetport instead of taking the escalator. I think of this when I get up in the morning and struggle to write 100 crappy words, which is my commitment to myself every day. I think about this when I opt to skip the Christmas cookies for breakfast when I know I don’t really want them.
Mostly, I try to take inventory of what’s really important - because after all, that’s what my mom was doing. Our birthday gifts were always wrapped, after all (usually with leftover paper from the previous person’s birthday), and I never felt like we were deprived of anything growing up.
So this holiday season, I take my mom’s words and actions to heart, as much as I can. In trying to make positive change in my life, wherever and whenever I can, I try to remember that every little bit counts.