My two front teeth are in pretty good shape, so all I want for Christmas is, well, nothing.

I’ve already asked family members not to buy me anything. If I need something throughout the year—or if I see an item I want—I get it myself. It’s not like back in the day when we hinted to loved ones about the material things our hearts desired most and couldn’t “wait until Christmas” to see what we got.

These days, most of us buy things year-round or when we see a good deal. When an offer I couldn’t refuse came along for an Instant Pot, I snatched it up and told my companion, Lou, it was his Christmas present to me. He nodded in agreement, then repeatedly praised the pot after I made a Spanish rice recipe I’d never been able to get right on the stove.

He says the rice reminds him of his mother and sisters, of good times and long-ago places, and that he’d be glad to have a pot of it once a week. Given how happy it’s made him, I think the pot is more his present than mine, so I think he owes me something else. Don’t you?

But wait a minute, that’s contrary to what I said initially: that I don’t need anything. Our kitchen counters are filled, and there’s not an extra inch of wall space in the house. I’ve repeatedly threatened to hang photos on the ceiling because there’s nowhere else to put them.

There’s another aspect of my logic, beyond the practicality. I’d rather celebrate the things that mean most this holiday season, like being together and feeling grateful for all we have. Most of us are healthy, and our older ones are still among us.

I don’t want family members to feel compelled to go out and buy me something. Anything. Whatever they happen to see in the store when they go down the list and land on me.

Plus, those with young children do gift exchanges with other members of their extended families, and spending $25 to $50 per child per family adds up in a hurry. Not only are people rushing to get ready for one gathering or another, but they’re also spending more than they should.

Of course, with my announcement, I added the caveat that I’ll welcome any homemade gift with open arms. In previous years, my mother and brother have shared jars of blackberry jelly and lime or dill pickles, made with cucumbers and berries grown in his garden. My sister gave us deliciously spiced apple butter that was heated, stirred and mixed to perfection in a big kettle by my brother-in-law and his extended family. And my “Lake Anna mother” Betty Gentry, well, anything she made and presented in tins and jars was to die for.

Family members also know I’m partial to photos of my grandchildren or anything made with their hands. Even though I said we’ve run out of room, I can always swap things around to find space for one more footprint that forms a reindeer or drawing that reminds me of the beach.

Last year, my daughter-in-law went above and beyond and made both a blanket and 2019 calendar with precious family photos. Likewise, my daughter used decoupage to mount pictures of couples and family members on small wooden slices the size of coasters. I hung them—and similar wooden ornaments my son’s family made us a few years earlier—on a strand of multicolored chickens a Secret Santa gave me some time ago. (Thanks, Edie!)

The three-gifts-in-one combination hangs in the kitchen year-round and reminds me of both the good times we had at the events pictured, and the warp speed at which grandchildren grow. It says Christmas to me as much as the various Nativity scenes in my corner kitchen cabinet and the twinkling white lights on the tree.

Cathy Dyson: 540/374-5425

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