Sunday, November 27, 2011

Ghosts of Christmases Past

As the official Christmas shopping season has begun this Thanksgiving weekend, I find myself thankful that I have basically finished shopping for Alex. Buying gifts for him always proves to be somewhat of a challenge because he rarely asks for anything, and he is not good about giving suggestions. Nonetheless, I try to find things I think he would like. Sometimes, my ideas are right on target, and other times he looks at me as if to say, “Why would you think I would want that?” Interestingly, some of the gifts he has been less than enthusiastic about receiving at first later become favorites of his, which is gratifying. The other evening after he went to bed, I noticed an array of his belongings in the family room, where he had been spending time, and I realized that all of these items had been Christmas gifts from various years—Ghosts of Christmases Past, so to speak, that reveal his various interests.

One of these former Christmas gifts was one I’d gotten him last year, a retractable ballpoint pen with ten different colors of ink. I had seen one of my seventh grade students using a similar pen in class and asked her where she’d gotten it, thinking that Alex might like one, too. She told me that she’d gotten it at Claire’s Boutique, and I dug through all the hot pink pens to find a purple one I thought he’d find acceptable. While he didn’t seem very interested in the pen when he received it, he’s been using it quite a bit lately to write his assorted cryptic lists in multicolored ink.

Speaking of lists, another part of the Christmas Past menagerie included one of his all-time favorite books, I Love Lists! by Linda Schwartz. In fact, Alex loves this book so much that he’s now on a second copy of this paperback because the first one fell apart from being read and carried around so much. The book describes itself as: “More than 200 fun-filled lists for reading, science, math, geography, music, art, sports, and lots more!” Essentially, if Alex had asked someone to write the perfect book for him, this would be it. I happen to know that he finds the following lists in the book especially interesting: “Big Numbers,” Presidents of the United States,” “Bones in the Human Body,” “Palindromes,” and “Weather Words.” For compiling these clever lists into this book that Alex has enjoyed for years, I would personally like to thank Linda Schwartz.

Another book he has been reading was a Christmas gift from 2006, The Best Stocks You Can Buy 2007 by John Slatter. Alex has had a fascination with the stock market for a few years, so he has about five annual editions of Slatter’s book that we gave him for Christmas gifts. I’m not certain why he selected the 2007 version of the book, but I’m sure he has some reasoning for his interest in this particular book that is now five years old. When he starts giving us good investment advice, we’ll know that we made wise decisions in encouraging his interest in stocks by giving him these books.

Since Alex has an interest in money, I found a toy cash drawer with play money a few years ago that he has enjoyed from time to time since he received as a Christmas gift one year. Lately, he has been doling out the fake currency and coins, leaving the phony money on the floor and on tables throughout the house. Maybe he’s leaving tips for Ed and me for the excellent service we provide for him. Whatever his logic, he has certainly gotten our money’s worth out of that gift that only cost two dollars.

Another Ghost of Christmas Past in this collection is the television “plug and play” video game 1 Versus 100, based upon the game show of the same name. Since Alex really likes playing video games and watching game shows on television, this seemed like the perfect combination. A Christmas gift from thee years ago, he pulls it out to play every few months or so.

One of Alex’s favorite Christmas gifts from the past is one he carries around nearly every day, a handheld educational electronic toy called an iQuest. Loaded with questions about science, math, and social studies, this electronic gadget has keep Alex amused for hours Unfortunately, the manufacturer Leap Frog no longer makes the iQuest, which is a shame because it’s a great learning device. While the Leap Pad that replaced it offers more entertainment in the form of color and graphics, the iQuest’s simplicity and emphasis on facts appeals to Alex, and he has learned a great deal from playing with it. Most kids probably wouldn’t appreciate that, though, which is probably why the iQuest is now listed as a “collectible” toy.

As I surveyed the group of former Christmas gifts that had engaged Alex’s interest that day, I was pleased that I had been right about what kinds of things he would like. Also, I’m glad that he still enjoys things he has had for years, finding them entertaining even after all this time.

“Remember the things I have done in the past. For I alone am God! I am God, and there is none like me.” Isaiah 46:9

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