We lived lean that winter of 2002. After months of deep pay cuts and our first two months of unemployment, we were struggling to pay the bills and worrying how we’d provide for our nearly one-year-old baby girl.
Michael and I figured the only gift that year would be the noble fir tree we found for $10 at a faraway Christmas tree farm, and we did delight in that big tree. Evenings on the floor reading books under its twinkle, holding our baby up so she could see the way lights danced against the fancy ornaments up top.
One morning, a friend in my mums group shared about an early Christmas in her marriage: “My husband was in school, and we didn’t have two pennies to rub together, so we cut out pictures
of things we wished we could give each other.”
So that’s what Michael and I did.
For weeks leading up to Christmas, we chose each other’s gifts with scissors, magazines and stacks of newspapers.
I cut out an ad for a ski pass, a new down jacket, a Mediterranean-style home for sale in our neighbourhood, pictures of places I thought he would love to visit. I wrote hopes for our family, appreciation for him as father and husband.
These years later, it still brings tears to my eyes to remember our joy that Christmas morning, unwrapping one by one the slips of paper tied with small pieces of ribbon.
For me, diamond earrings, a cashmere scarf, a trip to Greece and Italy, words like peace and freedom.
I can’t even remember them all. But I do recall how I felt: Loved. Seen. Treasured.
Just this morning, I told Michael I was writing about Christmas. “That Christmas where we cut things out for each other?” he asked with a smile.
“Do you remember what you gave me or what you opened that year?” I asked.
“Nope. It wasn’t about the stuff,” he said.
We knew it then, and we sure do know it now.