Tonawanda News

December 28, 2011

DOUBLE TROUBLE: Kids, Christmas presents and a certain wisdom

By Jill Keppeler
The Tonawanda News

— — To quote John Lennon, “And so this is Christmas.”

You’ve probably already opened your gifts. Perhaps your kids are playing with their loot around the Christmas tree, while you’re sipping your coffee and reading the paper. Perhaps you’re waiting to see or talk to grandchildren or for family to arrive for festivities.

Or maybe you’re at work, taking a break from the daily grind. (I’ve been there.)

Or maybe for whatever religious or personal reason, it’s just another day for you.

Whatever you’re doing, I hope you’re having a good one.

It’s been fun this year. For the first time, my younger son really “gets” it. He’s interested in the idea of Santa, and — given the merest opportunity — will earnestly tell anyone what’s on his Christmas list.

Sam was exceptionally easy to buy for ... a box full of Thomas the Tank Engine stuff, some books, some games, a stuffed animal. There’s really nothing he doesn’t like.

And then there’s Jim.

My older son is hard to buy for. It’s not that he’s picky. He likes what he likes ... mostly anything involving music, or some books. But he doesn’t ask for things ... ever.

As a parent, I can’t help but want to find him that wonderful gift for under the Christmas tree ... the one that will make his eyes light up and that wonderful Jimmy grin beam across his face. I managed it last year with his very first MP3 player.

This year? I’m not so sure.

He’ll like his gifts. I’m positive of that. But I don’t know that I managed the “knock-it-out-of-the-park” gift.

Before we visited Santa Claus (as usual, at the North Tonawanda Carrousel Museum) this year, I sat down with him and asked what he was going to tell Santa he wanted.

I just got a big smile. Then, “Go see Grandma and Grandpa?” And a request for “cars and boats and rockets with brother?” And “go have some fun?” And “sandwich?” (As in, his beloved grilled cheese.)

No Christmas list. None at all. I asked a little more. No luck. (Through I did get a stream of giggles; apparently I was amusing him.)

I’ll admit it; I was frustrated. I chalked it up to his disability and a few issues communicating and moved on, doing the best I could with my shopping and just hoping he’d like everything.

Then I was wrapping the gifts one night, worrying about what Jimmy wants, hoping he was happy on Christmas morning and thinking about what he’d told me when I asked.

And it occurred to me: Jimmy does want things.

He just doesn’t want things I can wrap.

He wants to see his grandparents. He wants our little family to do things together — especially the requested “cars and boats and rockets with brother,” which is Jimmy-speak for Olcott Carousel Park. He wants to spend time at home with all of us playing games or having tickle-fights or even just eating dinner that isn’t rushed as one parent or another has to run out the door.

And Jimmy, like the reformed Grinch-who-stole-Christmas, might have the right idea. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, is a little bit more ...

I can’t wrap up visits with Grandma and Grandpa, or trips to Olcott Carousel Park, and put them under the tree. But I can go forward remembering what it is my children truly love.


Time together. Time with parents who aren’t stressed out and running this way and that. Time with all the people they love. Time just spent together.

I can’t buy time. I can’t wrap it.

But today and forward, I can make sure I remember what’s important.

Merry Christmas.

Jill Keppeler is a page designer and columnist for the Tonawanda News. She can be reached at