I have to admit that generally I always got my (then-current) heart's desire for Christmas every year. So each year there was a favorite Christmas present under the tree. I think it had to do with my hope for one particular thing. My younger sister Connie always wanted everything...her list got longer and longer as the season progressed. As for me, I generally only wanted one thing; my list was short, and I think because of that, I tended to get whatever the one thing was.
One year it was a rocking horse; another time it was a stuffed animal, a big purple poodle dog I eventually named Oudis (where I came up with that name I will never know, but I digress); even as an adult, I got my rocking chair. How my parents divined that one, I still don't know, but they did even if my ex-husband didn't.
One gift I received, however, kept popping up year after year. It wasn't on my list, yet the one year I didn't get it, I was taken aback. I didn't realize that it had become an expectation. The same had become true for, at least, one, if not both, of my sisters. In fact, in retrospect, it may have become over time one of my favorite gifts.
The gift: underwear! More specifically, underwear that Mom picked out for each of us. You see, my sisters and I always had different tastes when it came to underwear. Even as young girls, we liked different kinds (fabric, style) of underwear, but it was during our adolescence that our differences really began to show itself. Of the three of us, despite my conservative outerwear, my underwear was the most shocking (for the times). I started wearing bikinis (and anything other than white)! Mom tried to talk me out of them, telling me that they wouldn't be comfortable; that I wouldn't like the fabric; that they wouldn't stay on or at least feel like they were going to fall off. Frankly, up until then, my sisters and I had always worn white briefs (or as they were eventually called "big whiteys" after bikini and other styles became the rage). But I was the rebel; I was the stubborn one (I still prefer to call myself strong-willed) who insisted on the change.
Eventually Mom relented and learned to tolerate my choice in underwear. It was, also, about this time that we started getting several pair as Christmas presents. Each of us got the style that each preferred. Mine were, of course, bikinis, but better underwear than I would ever buy myself. I bought relatively inexpensive (okay cheap!) underwear, but Mom got us better, more expensive underwear in brands like Vanity Fair, Olga, and Bali. Of course, she tended to choose more muted colors of pink and light blue, but every once in a while I would get some in red or black, too.
Although it was never voiced, it got to the point that we just expected our Christmas package of underwear until the year she didn't get them for us (for whatever reason). After we finished opening our presents, one of us, if not all three of us, said, "Where's our underwear?"
Her response: "I don't always give you underwear."
Ours: "Oh yes, you do!"
And individually, we continued, "I've come to depend on it." (or something similar)
The next year we got underwear again. And the following year after that, and so on, almost as a family ritual or joke. Despite the fact that it became more difficult for her to go out shopping because of her debilitating rheumatoid arthritis, she would always make at least one trip out to Elder-Beerman or Lazarus (or other upscale shop) to pick out our choice in underwear. At least once or twice, because she felt it was that important to us, she sent Dad out to buy them. She continued to give us underwear every year until the year she died. That year, I didn't expect to get any, nor did I ever expect to, again. But even then, she gave us underwear--packages that said from Mom with underwear inside. My younger sister had promised her that.
While the gift of underwear may not seem like the most exciting, magical gift, those yearly reminders remain some of my favorite gifts because it really was the gift of love.
Causes Nancy Smith Supports
Doctors without Borders
American Diabetes Association