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  • Writer's pictureShelly Sanders

Skipping Gifts

This year, we’re bucking tradition and going away for the holidays. It will be the first time in my life I’m not home, and even though it’s just four nights, and the location is far from exotic (Montreal, Quebec), I’m excited about trying something new! In fact, going away is just one of the changes we’re making. Instead of buying gifts for everyone in the family, we’re doing a book exchange—drawing names and buying one book for one person. Defining a category, like books, ensures we’re all on the same page (pun intended). And, in the spirit of giving, my husband and I have made donations to various organizations in our children’s names. No malls. No lineups. We shopped and paid online, and felt warm inside, spending money on people who need something good at this time of year, rather than buying presents my family doesn’t require, because it’s tradition.

Rather than making lists of things we want, we’re making lists of inexpensive things we want to do in wintry (fingers crossed) Montreal. Like ice skating, outdoors at Bonsecours Basin of the Old Port, or Olympic Stadium, or Beaver Lake, wandering through Christmas markets at Le Grand Marche De Noel, Parc Des Compagnons, and Place Jaques-Cartier, enjoying scrumptious meals (that I don’t have to cook or clean up after), as well as Quebec seasonal treats like maple snow and beavertails, snowshoeing in Mount Royal Park, tubing in Saint-Sauveur, an hour north of Montreal, and (our one extravagance) watching The Nutcracker at Place Des Arts. Just thinking about all these activities makes me want to go away every year!

We’re still two weeks from loading our car and weaving our way east from Toronto, through the perpetual traffic on Highway 401, but I’ve already felt more relaxed this year. Instead of shopping, wrapping, cleaning, and cooking, I’ve had time to take long walks in the evenings with my husband and dogs. And I’ve had a chance to read a couple of books that have been sitting on my night table for months.

Now, I have to admit I wouldn’t have dared propose a getaway in lieu of gifts when my children were younger; at 24, 22, and 18, my children (adults, if I’m going to be completely accurate), are carving out lives for themselves beyond our home. My husband and I don’t see enough of them and last year, we found we had to compete with their friends for attention, just as our children once quarreled amongst one another for ours. Selfishly, by taking our children away, we’re getting something far more important than any gift—time—a commodity that has become priceless as the years have rushed past.

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