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Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Around Christmastime, one of my dear friend’s recurring mantras is this:

“Give from the heart. Not from the mart.”

I like it, and it makes sense.

But anybody with children will attest to the fact that this sentiment only goes so far. I mean if Santa left only baked goods or a handmade craft, a palpable sense of betrayal would fairly howl through most households in this country.

I wouldn’t be any good at handcrafting a PlayStation or a Big Wheel. Hell, I had trouble assembling the Big Wheels and other contraptions Santa left for my twins, and invariably there were parts left over…

I remember grappling with a Foosball table one Christmas Eve as I downed beer after beer, in no way fooled by the fantasy that one more drink would make the process any easier. That table was very nearly my undoing, and it was as wobbly as I was.

But I soldiered on, listening to Pope John Paul II on the television as he concluded yet another Midnight Mass.

For better or for worse, I had the damned thing put together. With an air of drunken self-satisfaction, I took a bite out of Santa’s cookie, finished off his milk and went to bed.

I am so glad I am sober now, by the way. Have been for years.

Because my twins have December birthdays and I am not Rockefeller, I would always find myself “jammed up” about how to pull off the two events…

…but credit cards, a bit of squirreled cash and the kindness of loved ones made it possible for my son and daughter to enjoy their holidays; if not in high style, then by all means in a manner that prevented them from feeling pinched.

Despite my promises to myself to be better prepared “next year,” that has yet to happen. But birthdays and Christmases came and went, and everything seemed to work out. Every. Single. Year.

But what if your kids are adults?

My twins just turned 27, and I am lucky that they are both nearby. My son and daughter-in-law live in Myrtle Beach, and my daughter is down from New York, staying with them as she works from home for a time – a decidedly positive byproduct of the COVID-19 nightmare. I’m thrilled she is able to do that.

They are still getting presents, though, but the endgame moving forward is to keep it simple and avoid credit card spending.

I need to keep in mind that as far as gifts are concerned, 27 is not 17 is not 7 – and yet I keep hearkening back to those times, like, will my gifts be enough

But then I snap back to reality with the profound realization that, yes, they will be enough because I am enough. This is where the heart comes in, where spending time together comes in, where love comes in.

That kind of acceptance just became the biggest gift I could possibly give myself.

My advice to parents just starting out on their journeys with young children is simply this: Don’t blink.

Tay by Monsy

Shortly after my daughter Taylor graduated from Academy for the Arts, Science and Technology in Myrtle Beach [via Myrtle Beach High School], we took our first drive to Charleston in 2012 for College of Charleston’s freshman orientation.

Taylor had been accepted to a couple of other schools, but CofC appealed to her the most, and I believe this was one of the best decisions she has made thus far.

I have been blessed in my relationship with my daughter. The two of us have always been simpatico with similar personality styles, and we seem to have been cut from the same cloth. Some even say we walk the same, which makes me laugh.

There was never a period of rebellion, and she never seemed embarrassed to have me around – never like, “just drop me off here, Dad – I’ll walk the rest of the way.” The two of us communicate easily, make each other laugh, and I can only speak for myself here – I just plain enjoy being around her.

Back to the “don’t blink” part.

Taylor CofC Acceptance

Taylor’s CofC experience has come full circle now, and she will walk at The Cistern next week, a newly-minted graduate with a bachelor’s in communication. She completed her classes in the fall, but chose to take the graduation walk with the bulk of her friends.

Charleston, though a couple of hours down the road from me in Myrtle Beach, could well have been in any other place from the standpoint that she was alone in a new city, going in cold and starting fresh.

But something about this young woman is her innate ability to make new friends. This is not new: She has had that gift since she was very little, and I believe this goes to her personality – authentic, kind, quick to smile, empathetic and hilarious. Her beauty radiates from within a sweet soul.

I am impressed with the no-doubt lifelong friends she has forged down there in the Holy City – from classmates, early dorm-mates, roommates, bosses, coworkers, professors and Quidditch mates [for those of you wondering about that, Quidditch has been a thing for years on campuses the world over]. Like attracts like – and she has found her tribe.

Tay Dorm

My only regret about this period in her life is that I didn’t make the trip to Charleston nearly as much as I should have. Forgive me for that, daughter.

Taylor has never had a problem telling me where we stand – and if I start to annoy her, I would know about it immediately.

Tay and Dad

Here’s to you, my lovely daughter. Your father is so very proud of you now and always.

NOTE: Thank you, Monsy Hernandez Engeseth for the awesome painting, featured at top.