The Night Before Christmas

If even half of the events of the four Toy Story movies are to be believed, around the world there are billions of nervous toys worried about what might happen over the next couple of days. Will favourites be "demoted"? Will new toys play nice with the old ones? Will toys be phased out altogether in favour of electronics? If I were a magical creature that became inanimate in the presence of people, I would be nervous, too. Fortunately, my lot in life allows for the luxury of being the one who gets to play and be played with.

When I was in my 20s and naive beyond belief, I remember having a conversation with a girlfriend about Christmas presents for children. My parents gave as much as they could, and often more, which resulted in lots of happy kids around the Christmas tree and a very sore credit card until March. They loved to see the smiles, hear the laughter, and enjoy the unabashed delight their kids exuded. Not having children of my own, I saw this as being the result of "the over-commercialisation of Christmas". Nearly two decades later, I can completely understand why my parents wanted to go all out to give as much as they could. It has nothing to do with being a sheep to advertising or a slave to capitalism, but something much simpler that was mentioned earlier in this paragraph; parents want to see their children overwhelmed with glee.

Reiko and I brought the boy to a toy shop a few weeks back in order to see what sorts of things he might want to play with in the near future. He'll be three soon and, while we know relatively well what he enjoys and the sorts of adventures his mind conjures, seeing new things might trigger new interests. After a handful of minutes in the store, the boy's eyes fixed on a section where other children were playing and he made a bee-line. Just like the dozen other boys playing in the aisle, he was interested in Tomica cars. For what seemed like a solid half-hour he just played with the sample cars and basic sets with other children as their parents came and went, using the exhibited toys in much the same way as Reiko and I. The boy is very much interested in electronic devices, as he wants to touch anything with a glowing screen, but he's just as keen to grab a small-scale Mazda and imagine stopping at a gas station.

Fortunately "Santa" had already prepared something along these lines for him … though the venue is quite a bit more interesting than an Eneos self-service station.

This year the boy will receive a total of four presents, which works out to one from Reiko, "Nozomi", and myself, plus "Santa". It wasn't easy for Reiko or I to limit ourselves to this number, as we would have no problem spending a good amount of money on various books that he would enjoy. We considered more accessories to go with his plastic train set. We considered more cars. We considered a bunch of colouring books and crayons. We even considered a little karaoke set, as he loves to sing. Buying everything would likely come out to a little more than a single mortgage payment, which isn't "a lot" in the grand scheme of things … but we don't want the boy to become too spoiled. So four it is. Reiko will also receive four. I will receive four. Nozomi … doesn't really celebrate Christmas, but will get two nice gifts nonetheless.

When I was young adults would often say "It's not the gift, but the thought that counts". This was illogical to me, as thoughts are erratic and plentiful. This didn't really start to make sense until I started dating and, even then, the full meaning wasn't really felt until after the boy came along. Buying "everything" would be taking the easy way out. Putting thought and consideration into which toy from the myriad of options would bring the most long-term fun and enjoyment? That's the thought that counts.