Changing the tradition of gift giving

The silence was getting a bit awkward.

Clearly, my father-in-law was trying to say something. And by father-in-law, let me remind you, I have two.

I’m talking about my Modern Family one, the father of my husband’s late first wife. A man I adore. I man I would never want to make uncomfortable.

This started as a simple phone call to see when we could all get together before Christmas, since we will be traveling.

Oh, the checklist of the holidays.

When to fit in all the visiting? What to get everyone?

And by everyone, I mean everyone.

Soon after I started dating my now husband I realized I was stepping into a family with very different values than my own.

Bigger than religion. Bigger than politics.

Dear Reader, I’m asking whom do you gift at the holidays? Presents for all? Just the kids? Draw names?

I know some people get complete delight in the shopping, wrapping and giving.

I get it. In concept.

Am I a Scrooge? See, I don’t come from a very gifty family. Don’t get me wrong. My parents were more than generous with us growing up.

You wouldn’t be far off to call us Kagan kids “spoiled.” Birthdays, Hanukkah AND Christmas. But as we grew, the gifts got more practical. “You want to go on the high school ski club trip? Super! Merry Christmas! That’s your present.”

As grown people, a simple phone call is all any of us expects for holidays or birthdays.

In my married family, everyone gets presents for everyone. Little kids, big kids, adults, grandparents. Everyone. I don’t get it, but I do it.

Well, truth be told, Husband does most of it.

I’m good at procrastinating, thinking about it, worrying about it. Which brings me to this phone call with my father-in-law.

After much hemming and hawing, he spit it out. “So, what would you think, how would you feel, would you mind …”

“Yes?” I tried to encourage him.

“If we just did presents for the kids this year?”

There was silence.

“I mean, if you don’t want to do it that … ” he took my stunned reaction as a rejection of his bold idea.

“That would be awesome!” I exclaimed, perhaps a bit too enthusiastically.

And then, I took the chance to say what I really felt about all these presents. “Truth is, Pops, you are my gift.”

His warm chuckle told me that he got it. Thank goodness for Pops. For having the courage to suggest changing things up this year.

I did have to add one clarifier. One gift must be exempt from our new policy. Chex Mix. The kind my mother-in-law makes and gifts Husband each year. That must continue.

No Charlene Christmas Chex Mix for Husband would be like telling a little kid there is no Santa. Pops agreed. Chex Mix lives on.

Other than that, this year our arms will for hugging instead of lugging. What a gift, indeed.