Every year, since our kids were old enough to read, the presents have gone under our Christmas tree without tags.Instead, my wife Lee Ann and I came up with a code to identify which gift belongs to which child. We’d write the code – either a letter or a number, or a combination – on one corner of the gift.
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Every year, since our kids were old enough to read, the presents have gone under our Christmas tree without tags.
Instead, my wife Lee Ann and I came up with a code to identify which gift belongs to which child. We’d write the code – either a letter or a number, or a combination – on one corner of the gift. If the kids snoop under the tree, they have no way of telling which gift belongs to whom.
Times have changed, of course, as our kids have grown. At the age our three are now – Zach’s 26, Addison is 24 and Karis will soon be 22 – the volume of presents has significantly decreased. There are no more toys; the few gifts we do give reflect their more adult needs and wants. Plus, as any parent of adult knows, the biggest spending on kids isn’t at Christmas – it takes place all year long, especially when those children are in college, as our youngest still is.
But we still talk about “the code.” Coming up with the code was usually my job. It started off as something pretty simple - for instance, taking the 3rd letter of their first name and writing that down (“c” for Zachary, “d” for Addison and “r” for Karis) faintly near a corner of the wrapped gift. As the kids got older, the code got a bit more complex and usually involved substituting numbers which corresponded with letters in the alphabet (1 for a, 5 for e, etc.). We might take the last letter in each of their middle names, for example, go back five letters in the alphabet, and work the code from there
This would occasionally make for some interesting Christmas mornings at our house when Lee Ann and I would have trouble remembering exactly what the code was. I remember more than one year where, perplexed over the code we created, we had to identify one gift as belonging to a particular child, then finding the faintly-written letter or number somewhere on the gift – and then extrapolate the code from there.
One year, a long time ago, late on a Christmas Eve, after Zachary and Karis had gone to bed, Addison – our musician and mathematician, the kid who taught himself how to read at age 2 (unbelievable, except to the people who know Addison) – puzzled over the letters on the various gifts for a few minutes, then broke that year’s code. When at last he figured it out, he was surprised the code was so easy. That year, if I recall, the code was a letter – the letter coming before the last letter of their name in the alphabet...X for Zachary (written so that it could be seen as an “X” or a “T”), M for Addison (written to that it could be seen as an “M” or a “W”) and an R for Karis.
The code’s purpose was partially to confuse, but also it was to provide identification.
It got me thinking about the puzzle that is the birth of Christ, which for us is what Christmas is about. Some people get so caught up in trying to figure out all the permutations of life’s code – a creation coming from a Creator, a divine path, the prophecies, a miraculous birth, a sacrificial death, a redemptive plan – they forget that the point of it all is a gift, the gift of God’s Son. It’s a personal gift. Each of us has been given a gift, a gift with our name written plainly on the tag.
There’s a mystery, surely, but it starts with the gift – and at some point simply making the decision to accept the gift.
This Christmas, I hope you do. Unwrap with joy. And Merry Christmas.
Bill Horner III can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling (919) 663-3250.