As the end of the year approaches in Snobsville the Martha Stewart in all Snobvillian women comes to the fore. Seasonal Fruit is replaced by holiday themed apperitifs like Christmas tree shaped watermelon slices, or santa shaped organic sugar free cookies, (home baked, as if it needs to be said). Prosecco and champagne give way to homemade (read nanny made) spiced mulled wine or skim egg nog.
In previous years at Luke’s creche in our gym, the kids would write Christmas cards to each other or scribble a picture on a card written by their parents. A few mothers were thoughtful enough to throw a candy cane in the envelope. After the lead up to the festive season in Snobsville, (which had included a dozen or so Christmas parties already), I had begun frantically searching for ideas for Christmas gifts for all 20 of Luke’s class mates.
I scoured fancy looking magazines with glossy Chritmas recipes and Craft ideas for hours. I tried raising it with Caroline in the hope of some friendly Snobsville advice, but apparently the idea of discussing gifts is ‘a bit gauche, darling’. In a moment of desperation I even asked Luke. He told me that all of his friends had everything in the world, but if I wanted to get something I could buy them each a giant robot dinosaur. I couldn’t see his ideas winning over Snobsville’s elite however, so I was back at square one.
Christmas fare was tricky – it would have to be organic, gluten free and sugar free, which may have satisfied some of the mothers, but would not please a group of five year olds. Tree decorations were bulky and difficult to transport and toys were frought with danger since as Luke pointed out, the kids here have everything.
Still wanting to fit in, I eventually decided on a modest but appropriate gift which I hoped would drift subtley under the radar – a small Hot Wheels Star Wars car for each of the boys and a Set of Christmas hair clips for the girls. Not hand made, but safe. At this point I was still trying to fit in, not win gift giver and altruist of the year. Besides I knew Elizabeth had won that esteem for several years running. Last year’s offering was a one year subscription to a video arcade, which went down very well I’m told with the children. She had warned us that this year she wanted to give the kids something special for their transition into primary school.
Three weeks before the end of the year, I noticed the gifts had begun to trickle in. Hand blown glass Santa Snow Globes, (that one didn’t last too long as Luke decided it was better used as a speed bump on his hot wheels track), hand crafted mini gingerbread houses presented on a giant platter as a town for the children to select the house with their name on, a miniature train set with tiny gifts in each carriage – and with each endowment my hot wheels car and hair clips, though far more generous than our offerings in a previous life in Neplebean, looked more and more meagre.
There were so many gifts of such a volume that the teachers had the children make a Santa sack during craft to hang next to their lockers and collect the gifts each day. It was a daily struggle for Luke not to open the presents then and there at prep, but I insisted he wait till we get home, less out of respectful politeness than a desire to shield the other parents from his obvious disappointment (and ire) when opening their gifts.
On the last day before the end of year concert, I noticed in his bundle a gift from Elizabeth and took note of its size and shape, burning to know its contents. Casually, when we got home, I suggested we open it first.
“Darling, the one from Charlton looks nice. Let’s open that!”
“Charlton’s boring. I bet the present is BORING!” Luke replied dramatically. I stifled a smirk and tried not be proud of his honesty. (Charlton, God Bless him, is a little boring).
“Well, dear, he’s your friend.”
“Yes, but he doesn’t like anything fun. Like climbing the cubby house and sitting on the roof building a dinosaur land. Or making pipe cleaner spiders in craft and putting them on the girl’s backs. Oooh, or when me and Aiden-”
“Aiden and I”
“Yes, me and Aiden, made a staircase out of blocks and looked into the teacher’s lunch room.” I was alarmed, if not a little smug, at his responses. Either the teachers didn’t know he did these things or were too embarrassed that it happened on their watch to tell me.
I thought about letting him open Aiden’s present first but I was dying of curiosity inside. Luke, as usual, had a response before I did.
“Okay. Well, I suppose it doesn’t matter anyway. You chose my presents so his Mum probably chose his. Boring.”
I rolled my eyes at him impatiently and passed him the perfectly wrapped gift complete with homemade ribbons and water-coloured paper. He tore it open without a second thought and found a small box. A piece of card fell out of the wrapping.
“What is this thing?” While I studied the piece of card, he had pried open the box and was staring at a small silver item with a mix of curiosity and annoyance. “This doesn’t look fun.”
“Oh. It’s a tie pin. And it’s engraved. To Luke on his transition to primary school. May the journey be fruitful.”
“He wants me to eat more fruit? With a Taipan?”
“Tie pin, not taipan. For your school tie next year at Grammar I suppose. And fruitful means successful.”
“You mean like Dad?”
“Yes I suppose so.”
“Well der. Okay next one.”
“Hold on, there’s something in the card.” I studied the calligraphy on the hand crafted card. “Have a wonderful festive Season. And there’s a picture of Charlton and his family.”
“Wait, there’s something else. In the card. A subscription to a reading program.” Luke was already ripping into the next gift.
“Mum, Aiden got me Vintage Limited Collector’s edition Hot Wheels!” I sighed. Not only had I bought a similar gift to Caroline, I had bought the much cheaper version. No wonder she had been so quiet when I mentioned the idea. I wondered if the girls were given sterling silver tennis bracelets in place of Christmas Hair Clips.
As I perused my cupboard for a dress that would make me look skinnier than Caroline at the concert that evening, it occurred to me that the cars were probably fragile enough to be accidentally broken by a child. Or stepped on by a grown up when left on the floor.