Christmas and birthdays are hard on the minimalist front. It seems so ungrateful to tell people who want to buy you stuff that you don't need or want said stuff, but not saying anything can get you back into the consumerism hole from which you've just clawed your way out. (Fun fact: Abby hates most of my word choices. "Just say it, Mom!")
I guess the good news is now that we've been out as minimalists for a year or two, we don't have to say anything at all. Christmas this year involved a lot of really thoughtful, consumable gifts (YAY COFFEE!). Our gifts to others tended to be along the same consumable lines, although I did make a scrapbook for my mother of Johanna's Backyard Carnival. Because that's all she wanted. And sometimes I listen.
Anyway, my mother-in-law called on Christmas Eve to ask what was on Johanna's list. "Jo is my hard one," she told me. Well, it doesn't help that Johanna's birthday and Christmas are 12 days apart. (Poor planning, my bad.) She rattled off some possible ideas, but there wasn't really anything on the list that wasn't already under the tree.
So I suggested that she just take Johanna somewhere. A couple of years ago, pre-minimalism even, she gave Abby a trip to a tea shop for her birthday and a ride on the Polar Express for Johanna's. Except then my father-in-law had brain surgery so I took Johanna instead. (It's cool; he's fine.) And I was like, um, maybe you could just do something with her? Like that one year?
All of that is to say: On Christmas morning, Johanna opened a card from her grandparents that included a coupon for a lunch date with Grandma. ("Yes! I got a coupon!") And last week, Grandma took her on her date--they had lunch (Jo had fish and chips), they went to the history museum, they even did Grandma's errands at the church (cleaning and replacing candles around the altar). Oh, and got an ice cream cone to top it all off.
Johanna came back glowing. She loves one-on-one time and was just so happy as she told us about her day. And I appreciate that my mother-in-law was willing to go this non-traditional gift route. Sometimes people balk a bit because NOT giving something tangible seems... maybe not like a real gift.
But time IS a real gift. Thanks again, Grandma.