BRUGGER: Thoughts atop a snow-covered sand dune

It is 10 days past Christmas and all through the house not a creature is stirring, except for a mouse.
Jan 4, 2013

One of my grandsons caught him scurrying past his toes in the basement on Christmas Eve. As I write this, my husband is setting traps with peanut butter, a yearly tradition.

In the meantime, I’m making a list for next year’s celebration, deleting items and adding what might work better in the years to come. No easy task — I’m new at this, having shared my mother’s traditions for the past 62 years. Granting myself permission to change a few things has been both liberating and guilt-provoking.

I miss Mom, her calm encouragement and gratitude for the attention we gave her, even her Christmas sweater. But I didn’t serve her roast turkey with mashed potatoes and stuffing. I didn’t even serve dinner. We had brunch on the morning of Christmas Eve.

All of our children and grandchildren were not present. Those who were here were feted and honored with huge Christmas stockings, hung by the fire with care — because, when you’re home, you simply reap bigger benefits.

We called up Skype for the others, and set the laptop computer on a stool in front of our Christmas tree. Grandchildren ran into and around the screen — chaos, not so different from other years ensued.

When we welcomed our four children into our lives so many years ago, we could not imagine how different our gifting would be today. I did not appreciate enough how hard my mother worked to fulfill each of her adult children’s wishes. If memory serves me, we were all pretty easy going and Land’s End profited from Mom’s hefty catalog orders.

I have four very different couples to buy for: the organics and foodies group, the minimalists, those who appear to have an endless debit account at Mackinaw Kite, and the-everything-IKEA-couple. Add my commitment to buying local and made-in-America, and you have an equation for confusion and angst.

Let it be known, right from the top, I purchased plenty of books from The Bookman. Everyone in my expansive brood received print-on-paper reading material — as in “I owe my soul to the company store.”

But, when I purchased organic towels for one couple, it made no sense to me that I had to order them from their long wish-list on Amazon. What’s more, they wanted solid wood toys, no plastic, not from China, but from Amazon!

I made my selections and had them mailed from their nearest Amazon warehouse, which did not bother to include the “sent-from” information. So, every gift they received had a mystery donor.

So, I should pay extra to have them gift-wrapped next year? I don’t think so.

I bought twice as many towels for another family, from a store within 15 minutes of my home. They are hefty, with plenty of non-organic fibers, absorbent and colorful. I had enough money left over to buy tickets for their kids to see the Harlem Globetrotters in Grand Rapids, the best substitute for plastic I could find.

For the minimalists, I bought a set of pans. At first, I worried about the toxicity of the non-stick coating, but then remembered that it was a different child who insisted on the environmentally friendly "green" coating two years ago. But, would this couple be able to give up cooking on their one cast-iron skillet?

For the couple in Texas, I sent money to purchase a matching crib and changing table from IKEA, almost local, just a 15-minute drive from their home. That’s about as good as Texas gets.

The brunch was a cosmopolitan affair with a scrumptious quiche made with farm-fresh eggs, organic spinach grown in Mexico and processed in the United States, mushrooms without pesticides grown in Canada, and a Pillsbury crust. My husband fried up two pounds of his favorite Hormel Black Label bacon and a pound of MSG-free Meijer sausage. The Spring Lake baker provided the scones — for which, thankfully, there was no label.

The individual parfaits with organic raspberries from Canada and Greek yogurt from New York were too over-the-top. I have scratched them from the menu for next year.

After Christmas, to celebrate the success of our holiday purchases, fully appreciating the traditions of Christmas-past, my husband and I went to Sears to purchase new jackets from Land’s End. Mom would be pleased.

May God bless you this year, and may you remember the greatest gift is God’s love: local, organic, freely shipped, never minimal, and truly extravagant.

— By Ann Brugger, Tribune community columnist

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