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Weekend Life

Tales from the Motherhood: The hits, misses of gift-giving at Christmas

By allowing her daughter to help with gift wrapping, Jennifer DuBose often gets a second opinion on her choices in presents.
By allowing her daughter to help with gift wrapping, Jennifer DuBose often gets a second opinion on her choices in presents.

I’m the luckiest Mom ever. I have my very own elf. Not one of those Elf-on-a-Shelf dudes, but a real, live elf. She even wraps Christmas presents. In fact, Holly has begged to be allowed to wrap the presents every year since she figured out how to maneuver a roll of Scotch tape, so I wasn’t surprised when she knocked on my bathroom door the other night.

“Got anything I can wrap?” she asked.

“Under my bed. The Pier 1 Imports bag. Wrap that for Daddy,” I answered from behind the shower
curtain, as I turned the hot water back on with my foot. I’d been soaking for a while.

A moment later I heard the bag rustling as she returned.

“Cool, Mom, this is cool. Who should it be from?”

“How ’bout you and Noah?”

“But you bought it,” she replied.

“Well, do you like it?” I asked.

Silence. “Sure.”

“Good. Go show it to Noah.” I know, the kids should wrack their own brains, use their own money, yadda, yadda, yadda, so sue me. Next came footsteps, a door opening and more footsteps. Heavier, this time.

“Mom,” the boy began from the other side of the bathroom door, his voice sounding deeper than it did even an hour before, “Dad does not want a fondue set. Mom,” he said a second time, “we give him one every year.”

We do?

“He wants a food processor.”

He does?

“He’s been saying that.”


“Do you know what a food processor is?” he asked.

Um, yeah, I giggled to myself, I own one. Can’t find the darn blade, of course, so it’s relegated to that cupboard I can’t reach, where the spiders hang out. But I used it to make homemade baby food once when you were 6 months old, I thought about saying to the deep voice on the other side of the door – but didn’t.

Instead, I sighed, remembering the sweet potatoes. I’ll never forget how much Noah loved sweet potatoes, except for that time several months later, when he decided he’d had enough and, with great gusto, spit them so far that a fantastic orange spray landed on the calendar hanging on a wall several feet away. It was 1999. I was so proud, I kept that page. I think it was November. I wonder where it is now?

“Mom, we can’t give him this thing,” Noah repeated, as my reverie retreated into the ether.
I knew he was serious as he’d actually interrupted an Xbox game-in-progress and emerged from his cave to issue his disapproval.

Fine, I decided, hoping I’d made the right calls on the gifts I’d gotten for him. It’s like a big quiz, these days, as my kids are beyond the writing-letters-to Santa-phase. Instead, they drop hints. I don’t want to be so obvious as to take notes in front of them, so, instead, I cramp my brain trying to commit them to memory. It’s not pretty.

On a recent trip to Dick’s Sporting Goods, for example, I learned that Noah wants an “ugly stick” (a kind of fishing pole), fishing lures, a gift card to Bass Pro Shops (sorry, Dick’s) and Nike Men’s Mercurial Glide III CR FG soccer cleats. Size 10 ½. Yeah, the myriad specifications on the cleats nearly did me in, so thank goodness he took it upon himself to send me the link to the cleats, in case I’d forgotten a few of the details. I certainly had.

But I had no idea what would make my elf’s eyes twinkle on Christmas morning. Sure, I’d already picked up a few little things for Holly, including the “red slippers with the heart and the nubby things on the bottom” that she’d swooned over at Target, but not before insisting to the sweet lady at Kohl’s that I was sure they’d been “over there, on that kiosk,” I said, pointing, and then watched as she tromped determinedly all over the store, from Misses to Juniors and back to accessories, trying to help me locate them – because she understood that that’s all my little girl wanted.

We finally both threw our hands up and I checked out, but then she caught up with me at the door, a pair of close-but-no-cigar red slippers in her hopeful hands.

“Are these the ones?” She asked, grinning.

I hated to say no. (Give that girl a raise!) The right ones were finally in-hand the next day, but I still needed to find a fun, ridiculous, if-it-wasn’t Christmas-you’d-never-get-this-crazy-thing kind of gift, for her.

I began to panic, but Monday night, as we cuddled and she drifted off to sleep, she mumbled out of the blue, “I like cotton candy.”

That’s it! I realized, nearly startling her awake in my excitement, a cotton-candy maker!
Energized and relieved, my quest began. I quickly learned, however, that Holly isn’t alone in her fondness for cotton candy, as the nifty retro-red one I wanted for her was sold out of every single website and store. Except for one!

There’s always one gift every year that tries to stump me, but I finally got my hands on it, the last retro- red cotton candy maker at the last store. That feeling of triumph was awesome, but this is one gift my little elf won’t be wrapping.

• Jennifer DuBose lives in Batavia with her husband, Todd, and their two children, Noah and Holly. Contact her at

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