No one wants a tin cup and an orange at Christmas

No one wants a tin cup and an orange at Christmas

I used to take envelopes and carefully write each child’s name on the outside, stuffing a small cash budget inside. The envelopes were thin, and the sparseness of the cash held within seemed precarious, light as a feather. Tucking the envelopes inside my purse, I’d pull on my boots and face the Christmas shopping crowds.

You can buy a lot on a tiny budget when you need to. Back then there was no Facebook Marketplace and eBay was in its infancy, but when you didn’t have a computer, even that was off-limits. I liked to take my chances, going into stores the kids liked and scouring the racks for sales and deals. If I’m honest, I have a hard time shopping any other way, even now when I can afford just a tick more.

Things got harder when they got older and gaming systems, fancy name-brand jeans and iPods appeared on their lists. They still talk about the year we got them a PlayStation as a shared gift. I don’t remember how we managed to buy it, but I’ll never forget their faces when they opened it. I’m thinking it was how my parents felt when they bought us an Atari. Dad wasn’t much of a hugger, but we climbed onto his lap and squeezed the near life out of him.

I’m not an expensive gift giver. I shop in dollar stores for wrapping paper and tape, and I don’t cover things in fancy trimming or absentmindedly spend an inordinate amount on an exchange gift. I like to think about the person and see what I can unearth at a thrift store or find on the clearance rack. I like to put gifts together and see how I can stretch my money for maximum effect. I’ve never believed that full price, expensive gifts are the only valid way to give.

With my children living in other states, it’s been hard for me to shop for them. Buying online and having it sent to their homes seems so impersonal, so devoid of the tactile experience of finding something in person and wrapping it. I’ve sent boxes to them over the years, but the amount it costs to send has taken the joy out of the giving as it drains the pocketbook even more.

Every year I slide down the hole of cheesy Christmas movies. The more formulaic they are the more I enjoy them. It goes against almost everything in my nature to admit this, but then again, I am a huge fan of Little House on the Prairie and the Waltons. I would tell the kids some years that if they didn’t start behaving, they’d only get a tin cup, peppermint stick, one orange and a penny in their stockings. Real Little House fans know.

I told George I wanted my house to be decorated like a Hallmark movie this year. When you slide down into the garish world of TV Christmas movies, every square inch is covered in brightly colored lights and tinsel. I’ve tried so hard to be the woman who likes softly lit white lights, but I am not her and she is not me. I went to a home store and bought several boxes of the old-fashioned colorful lights, the ones with bigger bulbs. We strung them around the porch and windows, and when we plugged them in, my heart grew three sizes bigger. I can’t be who I’m not and knowing this makes me a happier person.

All I need is a hot chocolate with peppermint candy flakes and whipped cream to stroll through a tree lot with — every Christmas movie has this scene. I got a small Christmas tree at a local thrift store several years ago, and it’s still holding up. I do miss the experience of buying a real tree, the smells, and the lights were a sensory experience. What I don’t miss is the care a real tree needs. And the needles, I don’t miss the dropping needles.

I haven’t begun to shop for Christmas. The house will have no extra voices this year, and after the big extended Christmas Eve bash with family, we will most likely open gifts alone on Christmas morning. I am ok with this because every season looks different. The gift giving will be a smaller affair, and after our big trip to see everyone, I am also ok with this fact. I’ll whip up a breakfast casserole and some cinnamon rolls, and we will turn on a movie after the stockings have been emptied. I have a few ideas on where I want to go to find deals to fill them.

Melissa Herrera is a columnist, published author and drinker of too many coffees based in Holmes County. You can find her book, “TOÑO LIVES,” at or buy one from her in person (because all authors have boxes of their own novel). For inquiries or to purchase, email her at

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