When I was a child at home, Christmas gift giving was limited since I had little money to spend on something for my four brothers and three sisters. (Actually, I had no money, but my mom could always spare at least twenty-five cents.) When I was really young, we didn’t give gifts to each other at all, but as I got older we exchanged names. I remember shopping at the dime store to buy some little trinket. But what can you buy with a quarter—handkerchief, stationery, pencils, mittens, socks, candy or nuts? Of course, it would be something I would want myself.
My dad always loved nuts and the smell of warmed cashews was just too tempting to pass up. I ordered a quarter’s worth thinking what a pleasure it would be to taste a few of them all warm from the paper sack before wrapping them. They’ll never notice a few missing nuts. Another Christmas I saw the most beautiful bracelet for only twenty cents. I couldn’t believe my good fortune. I chose my sister Milly’s name that year and I was so proud to give her something so precious. The shiny paint was nicked in places by the time she unwrapped it and put it on. She tried to act as though she liked it, but I could tell she couldn’t wait to take it off. I never saw her wear it again and years later I saw it in a pile of discarded odds and ends, like a broken light bulb.