Gifts of time and fun
’Twas the day after Christmas, and all through the house, wrapping paper and empty boxes lay strewn all over the floor.
But wait, don’t throw out the boxes.
It may not be cold enough for snow, but three boxes make a great Georgia snowman, colored all over with new markers and crayons and decorated with winter clothes we probably will not need today anyway.
My aunt gave her grandsons a huge monster of a riding toy, so I plan to spend today making a fort out of the box with my 3 and 4-year-old cousins.
Why is it that the boxes get more use than the gifts sometimes?
I read an excellent article on cnn.com this week, “When toys were magical without being pricey,” by Christy Oglesby.
She looked back on her favorite gifts and instead remembered things like her grandmother crawling under the table to color.
Now obviously, I’d have been disappointed if Santa did not bring plenty of toys each year, but I honestly can’t remember too many of them.
I do remember, however, a cousin and I riding Power Wheels in circles through our grandparents’ house one Christmas.
My aunt rode the Pink Pig at Rich’s with us one year, and the little girl in front of us said we were going to be stuck.
My dad put together bikes back when they still came in 1,400 pieces instead of mostly “pre-assembled” as we waited anxiously, wondering why he couldn’t work faster.
For weeks after Christmas and Easter I would show off the notes Santa and the Easter Bunny had scrawled out in response to my letters.
All year long, it was not the things themselves I remember, but the people who played with each one.
I feel like a big kid shopping for my friends’ and cousins’ children, always picking out things I can’t wait to share, but perhaps that’s what is most important anyway.
Now that I’m off on holidays, there will be even more time for playing Play-Doh in the floor, eating imaginary food, painting sun catchers, assembling the Princess puzzle for the 4,567,873 time, or coloring with new crayons.
Likewise, I remember my 4-H leaders for the same reasons — not the material things they provided, but the sheer amount of time each invested in 4-H’ers.
Over the last year, I hope we’ve made a lot of those memories in Newton County 4-H.
At District Project Achievement, everyone pitched in one night to outfit and prepare five retro back up singers for Mary’s district officer campaign skit.
Last summer at Rock Eagle, the girls in my cabin were desperate to win the clean cabin award, so the last day I let them put every suitcase, pillow, and shoe in my room so that there wasn’t a single thing to be messy.
(We still didn’t win, but the “Where is your stuff!?” comment left by counselors with our green star made their day.)
At Wilderness Camp, we crawled and slid through mud and — well, I don’t want to know what else — on a four and a half hour caving trip, then rolled out our sleeping bags for some well deserved sleep right in the cave.
The next day we had to defend our raft from invading pirates from another raft along the Ocoee River.
Later that night, after I worried that my middle school girls would be cowering in the cabin after campfire ghost stories, I walked into a completely dark cabin only to find them all gathered around the door ready to scare me. (It worked.)
At the club of the year field trip to the skating rink, Kim (my co-worker) and I entered the races. She cheated, but I think they loved that even more.
At the Christmas parade, when the judges asked to speak to the person in charge of our entry, I had to stand up from a pile of kids adding ornaments to each others’ hair, with five pony tails adorned with shiny things on my own head.
Even this week, as we worked for hours on portfolios, we interrupted for a game of Life, spinning our way around the board in our little cars and naming two the 4-H bus and 4-H van.
It’s been a fun year, and I’m already looking forward to 2009.
But today, I need to go work on this cardboard fort and build a few more memories from this year.