Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Who's Better Off?

Ironically, it was mommy and daddy who couldn't sleep, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring--not even a mouse. Don't always believe what you read, even on food labels. Oh sure, it might say decaf...

Downstairs in the front room, which I believe is called the "living" room--I can never remember which is the family room, and which is the living room, so for arguments sake, the living room is the room classically reserved for the formal china and fancy schmancy table and chairs--is what we classify as our play and guest room, depending on the context. We set up a queen-sized bed for dad's recent visit, when it was only known as the playroom. It also has a fireplace, so we put the Christmas tree next to it and hung the stockings. Jackson and I slept in the bed and waited for Santa. He promised to stay up all night waiting, until we let him know about Santa's ability to know when you are sleeping. Kapow! Fast asleep.

Jackson got up first and saw all the presents. He was excited, but not like I used to be. It wasn't disappointing, just interesting. The world has changed for kids. Maybe I make a little more money than the average Joe--I'm not rich, but when political pundits say there is a war on the middle class, I'm it. Middle: not poor, not rich, just playing the game by the rules.

When I grew up it was different.

I saw a train set in a toy store that I pointed out to my Aunt Bev. "That's what I want for Christmas." She frowned. I was young, perhaps eight or nine. But the look on her face is with me still, not like a photograph; more like a strand of DNA, a twisted ladder whose rungs connect her pain to mine, her desire to provide to my outstretched hands, her disappointment to my dawning comprehension of our place on the food chain.

"Maybe something...” she paused. The words were difficult. "...a little smaller."

"NO! I don't want anything else. I want that."

My dad would have back-handed me over the train table, through three displays and the display window, and onto the front sidewalk, shivering and bleeding. But my aunt just whispered, "I-I'll see what I can do."

She told my step-mother, who talked to me when we were alone. "Your aunt Bev told me you asked her for a train."

Shame washed through me like a chill wind. Mom looked at me with those eyes that see, that could read my thoughts as from a teleprompter. Her expression softened when she saw that I understood. For once she wasn't angry. And I sensed something else too, something I would rarely see from her--a faint wisp of compassion, like a nip of perfume.

I found an old Lionel train set in my grandmother’s basement that used to belong to my father. It was heavy and smelled of oil. It didn't work any more, but I set it up anyway and imagined it did. That was the closest I ever came.

My own kids don't wait nearly so long. They have three train sets, remote control cars and planes, a Game boy, race tracks, Hot Wheelz, board games, figurines of dinosaurs and every genus of animal from the African deserts to the Arctic, and a crate of Disney movies that would take weeks to get through. When my oldest gets up on Christmas morning, he gets back in bed next to me and tells me Santa came, and waits patiently for me to wake up. Sometimes I put toys into the attic, and it takes months before he notices. I was made do with a broken down train set that only left from Dream Central Station. My son can play with a new toy for a day and lose interest.

Who's better off?


trinamick said...

I think kids today are at a disadvantage. We didn't have money for the latest toy or brand name clothes, so we were much more appreciative of the things we were able to get. It seems like nowadays kids just expect to get whatever they want, or if a toy breaks, they'll get a new one. My nephew was given every toy imaginable, and it just seemed to leave him wanting more.

How many of us had more fun with a refrigator box than we could have had with any manufactured toy? :P

Beth said...

I thought I'd never say that the holidays were too commercial, but they are ... plain and simple. This last one left me feeling limp. It's just not the same. Kids need more for a bigger "higher". When I was a kid, I looked forward to one present. My kids would cry if they received only one. LOL

Shesawriter said...

My son is spoiled rotten and has the attention span of a fruit fly. He plays one game and loses interest after only a few minutes. I used to get upset, not I just ignore it. LOL!


Moni said...

I think that when a child is forced to do without all the techno enhanced toys, it challenges them use their imagination.

If the kids today have that do everything for them, when do they get a chance to use their imaginations? I remember when I was a kid I'd play outside for hours...my daughter doesn't know what it is to play outside using only her imagination.

I worry about today's kids. They have everything at their disposal, tv, vcr, dvd, video games, computers. I think the've become desensitized to gratitude and the spirit of receiving and giving.
I literally broke myself trying to get my daughter the things I thought would make her happy and she complianed about getting too many gifts???!!!

So I go into my gratitude speech about how some kids don't get any presents and in some cases not even food for Christmas. It doesn't faze her. Unfortunately, I did get the chance to prove my point as someone in our town's house burned over Christmas. I told her she would have to give up two of her toys. She gave me a befuddled look and said, "okay." I just can't win with her because she's smarter than me. lol ;)

It turns out that the community pulled together and got the fire vitims kids new toys.

I'm sure there's a point in here somewhere. Ha! That's my story.

Ultra Toast Mosha God said...

An interesting question scott.

My parents could never afford to get me extravagent presents, yet this year my dad bought me the most expensive present he ever got me.


Jada's Gigi said...

Don't know the answer to that one...I'm very grateful to be able to buy nice gifts for my family but also very grateful that they appreciate what they are given...there's a happy medium in there somewhere. Unfortunatley hard times don't always make us appreciative, sometimes they make us bitter. Thankfulness is a missing attribute in most of our society. It is something that has less to do with the gift and more to do with the giver and receiver. It is a trait that can and should be cultivated.

The Zombieslayer said...

Heh. Funny about kids. Parents shouldn't have to fret about kids not falling asleep waiting for Santa. They will. :)

As for the who's better off, the answer is simple. It's the one who appreciates what they have.

Kathleen said...

I completely agree with Trina. We'd get one toy from Santa and then clothes and socks and robes and practical stuff from Mom and Dad. Of course, my father always made us feel as if we were the most privileged kids on earth and didn't deserve it or appreciate it, but I now know that that was his issue.

My niece and nephew have laptops and cell phones and the latest video game (nephew mostly) and while they aren't unhappy or miserable kids, they have never played outside like we did. We were always kicked out of the house to get fresh air.

fin said...

It's scary to see TV screens in SUVs...kids don't even ride anywhere without something to stare at...I used to draw and read on long trips and daydream out the window. I miss it.