In the olden days it was simple. And I must be getting old because I find that particular phrase tripping off my lips all too frequently these days.
But it was, damn it.
“What do you want for Christmas, Tom?” we’d ask as November waved goodbye.
“I’ll send you a list,” he’d say. And a few days later, said list would drop into our inboxes.
“Can you understand it?” my wife traditionally asked.
“Well, I can understand one of the games. And I can understand it costs a lot. But basically, no.”
We didn’t have a hope. It was full of F1 technical details, go faster stripes for computers and various devices that would consolidate his hold over our home internet. It was also full of links.
So it wasn’t our role to understand Tom’s list. Our role was simple: click the link, pay, bring the delivery home from the office.
It didn’t quite capture the romance of Christmas, but by gum it was effective. And quick.
But all that has changed. Tom’s a proper person now: he’s working, only home for a few days at Christmas. And my beloved has been having increasingly exasperated conversations…
“Christmas is coming, Tom. We need your list.”
“Yeah, I’ll think about it. I don’t really want to send a list this year.”
“But how will we know what to buy you?”
“But if I send a list you’re basically just giving me money.”
Technically he’s right. We may as well say, ‘Here’s a hundred quid, Tom, buy them yourself.’ But it’s not quite magic and sparkle is it?
No, it isn’t. So I decided to take control.
“Look, Tom,” I said, slipping it subtly into the conversation, “What do you want for Christmas.”
“Well, nothing really. Why don’t you surprise me?”
“I know you haven’t done a list. But a clue would be nice…”
“I’ll think about it.”
“What did he say?” Jane asked.
“He’ll think about it. Which obviously means we have to think about it. Clothes?”
“I bought him clothes last year. He took them all back.”
So it could be a bleak year for our eldest son. I’ve even resorted to Google. Gift ideas for twenty-something men. But as he doesn’t have a beard to groom that’s 50% of the internet written off straightaway.
We’ve had one solitary flash of inspiration: so at the current rate we’ll have Tom’s Christmas shopping finished by July.
Fortunately, there are no such problems with our other two children. I can’t stop having ideas for Ben. The only one left at home, endless conversations, off to university next year. How can you not have ten ideas an hour?
And of course the Beloved Daughter is far too organised to leave anything as important as her Christmas presents to the vagaries of her parents’ declining intellects. “What about Jessica?” I carelessly asked.
“She’s sent a list. She sent it in November, actually.”
“Yes. She’s says she got a lot of coursework.”
But by the time you read this my Beloved Daughter will be home – and she hasn’t stopped at Christmas presents. Here’s a girl who knows what she wants.
To mis-quote the Christmas Story a decree has already gone out from Caesar Augustus that lamb shall be served upon her return. Lamb shanks, Dad, she texted, slow cooked in red wine.
‘Red wine.’ Now there are two words that ring a distant bell. But I’m still teetotal thanks to the lingering effects of my gastric flu.
You wouldn’t prefer chicken soup instead? I texted back.
Then I went off to look for an air raid shelter…
I’m delighted to say that with a designer friend of mine I now have an app on the iPhone App Store. Children fighting, cat puking and your OH prostrate with man flu? Yep, the Stressed Out Mums Sticker Pack is now available for 79p. Need chocolate? Need cake? Ready for wine o’clock? Every sticker you’ll ever need is right there…