The oldest is paying for his gifts with his own money this year. No more picking out gifts and then picking my wallet -- he has worked hard to save up nearly $20 with which to shop.
"But I still don't have enough for anything good," he said gloomily in the store.
And so I taught him about building on existing possessions, about giving earbuds to the person who loves his iPod, about selecting puzzle glue for the jigsaw fiend. He listened carefully then headed purposefully for the aisle he knew would have just the right thing for his father. He picked out something thoughtful and within his budget, and I couldn't be prouder of him for it.
I remember the first gift picked out and paid for with my own money, money earned, I kid you not, selling seashells to tourists who visited my little beach. For Christmas the year I was nine, I gave my father an address book, a cheap, black, cardboard one with thin pages glued inside. I rode my bike all by myself to MacArthur Drug to pick it out. I thought it was beautiful with ADDRESSES stamped on the front cover in gold letters and gold edging on the pages. He used that book until the day he died, forgoing many prettier, leather ones he was given in later years, ones with heavy cream pages neatly stitched into them.
I have no doubt my husband will feel similarly about the gift the oldest has picked out. I can barely wait to see the box opened, to see the look of well-deserved pride on the oldest's face. It's another milestone reached, this one more sweet than bitter.