“You know what would be the perfect Christmas present for Daddy?” Myles asked me.
I was interested in the answer, partly because getting the kids’ perspective on what we parents really need for Christmas is fascinating on how they view our world, and partly because I was running out of ideas for what to get my husband.
My son advised, “Fingerless gloves! You know, to wear to work in winter, so he can still type on his computer, and his hands won’t get cold.”
Tempting as it was, I did not steal his idea.
It surprised me, though, that Myles thought this was normal, and not at all odd, that his father, an engineer, needed gloves to wear in his office where he spent much of his day sitting in front of a computer.
While an unheated workplace is common in Beijing, and especially in Changping, it isn’t in our native Pennsylvania. Even so, we were able to find a pair of mittens that converted to fingerless gloves. It might not have been a present had we lived elsewhere, but it was the perfect Christmas gift for my husband at the moment. He was very appreciative of his son’s consideration, too.
In the years since we moved to China, our Christmas gift exchanges have largely been influenced by the unusual shape of our lives. In addition to my husband’s new work gloves, for instance, we have all received our fair share of wool socks, long underwear, and fleecy sweaters. Few places we go, from the supermarket to our church, are heated even after November 15, so we need the heavy layers.
Another popular Christmas present from our Western Pennsylvania-based family is anything with a Pittsburgh Steelers motif. Every Christmas, regardless of where we might live, each of us is bound to get something bearing the Steelers’ colors or logo. In the past few years, it seems, there has been a marked increase in how Steelers-filled our holidays have become. In addition to the typical t-shirts and jerseys of popular players, Myles and Brigid have a few Steelers hats, a Steelers blanket, and one rubber Steelers monster mask. I myself have received Steelers scarves, Steelers earrings, a Steelers purse, a couple of Steelers Christmas tree ornaments, and even a Steelers toaster. Not only is the toaster housing emblazoned with a Steelers emblem, but the toast is as well. It seems excessive, possibly even obsessive, but there are times that the Steelers mania are a balm for my homesick soul. It seems that nearly anything that has Steelers on it is the perfect present for me.
Over these last six years, we’ve found that the perfect Christmas present for our kids isn’t material at all; it’s time with our families and friends back home enjoying the holiday. It’s what we try to give them every year. It can’t be wrapped, but we know it will always fit. Whether they are sitting with four generations around a table, heads bowed, preparing to eat, or racing their cousins down snowy hills in sleds, it’s what they always want anyway. They still enjoy getting toys and skates, but even as young as they are, Myles and Brigid treasure our time at home more than anything.
This article is excerpted from the beijingkids December 2012 issue. View it in PDF form here or contact firstname.lastname@example.org to find out where you can pick up your free copy.