I have just one more Christmas story to get out of the word-hoard and then we can move on. It’s a tale told me by one of the more famous Book Fair volunteers, who recalled a year from her own life when second-hand books would have been a great joy.
Something always went wrong around Christmas: new babies will be born at the most financially awkward times, and there were other things to make a serviceman’s salary run short. One year the presents made an awfully tiny pile. She had warned the kids about possible disappointment on the big day, but this didn’t help her deal with her own disappointment. All she had, though, that could even marginally be described as discretionary income were the last of that month’s food stamps.
On Christmas Day, though, there was one great big box under the tree for each child. The Hoarders were willing to save theirs for last, but one of the Live-For-Now kids ripped the paper off of his and stared in stunned amazement at…a box of breakfast cereal.
“That is yours,” his mother told him. “All yours. You need not share that with the others if you don’t want to. You may eat it for breakfast, or as a snack, or swap it with your brothers and sisters for bowls of their cereal.”
Excitement grew as each child found a different sugar-coated sweetness bomb heavily advertised breakfast cereal. They were a family that ate breakfast out of that week’s box of corn flakes each morning. Not only were these fancy cereals something new and different, something they’d heard about but never expected to have, but these were Negotiables! Wheels began to turn, and the future CEOs in the family were already planning how many nights of not drying dishes could be bought with a bowl of Vanilla Gorill-Os.
I’m told that the following year, come November, the youngest asked her mother, “Will we get cereal again this year?” Mamma hadn’t really planned on it–it wasn’t necessary the next year–but she knew a family tradition in the making when she saw one.
I think you could start a similar tradition with whatever small ones cluster at your feet (or pocket). You don’t have to wait until Christmas. Try the off-season, say, the end of July. Go to a library that’s having a big book sale, maybe its second annual 25th Book Fair, and give each infant a little coupon with, oh, Andrew Jackson’s picture on it and say they can spend it any way they wish inside the library: at the vending machines, at the bookstore, or on as many books as Andrew will get for them. Try it on Half-Price Day and find out which of your offspring are mathematically inclined. I guarantee the tradition will become immensely popular (especially around my place.)