I can’t remember the sound of my father’s voice but I remember every present he ever gave me, and how much he loved me.
As the years go by the threads of my childhood memories, of the happy times before my father’s death when I was nine, grow frayed and dull.
Birthdays all blend into one, I struggle to remember my school days, or what my bedroom looked like, how my father’s voice sounded when he sang to me.
But I remember in exact, shining detail every single present he – and Santa – gave me for Christmas.
Mostly they were gifts I had written to Santa for. A Gloworm toy, a Cabbage Patch doll, a tape deck and the new Collette tape single (google her, kids of today).
There were surprise presents, too, like pink vanity mirror that lit up with love hearts, a battery operated robot, and a porcelian doll in a straw bassinet that I accidentally smashed to pieces on Christmas day and sobbed so hard I was sick.
They were piled up under the tree, left at my bedroom door at midnight, hidden in the garden to be found on a treasure hunt. So many that often come Easter my dad would find some long-forgotten gifts squirrelled away in the rafters of the garage.
When my father died, the presents stopped. A bike that he had promised for by 10th birthday became a cheap outfit from K Mart, all my mother could afford on her widower’s pension, and Christmas presents, well, I don’t remember what they were, nor if I got any.
Now I have children of my own and I find myself buying them toy after toy, treat after treat, often daily.
And I, as I am sure my father was, have been warned about the dangers of spoiling children by buying them too many things.
The warnings come thick and fast at Christmas, with cries that it’s become too commecial, that Santa was invented by Coca-Cola (he wasn’t) and I am just a cog in the corporate machine.
But I never feel guilty, and I don’t believe you can ever spoil a child with too many presents. And that’s because I, like my father, and so many others out there, give gifts to our children because it makes them happy, and shows them they are worth something to someone.
It’s not about money, either. Charlie, three, takes more joy out of a 40 cent lollipop or a $2 toy car than he does from a fancier, more expensive toy.
I don’t plan on leaving my three sons any time soon, but if I did they would remember this time in their all-too-brief childhood when their mama loved them so much she couldn’t even come home from the supermarket without a little something tucked inside her handbag for them, and that the delicious thrill of counting down the sleeps until they unwrapped their Tracy Island was because of me. They would look at the set of precious family photos we paid a lot of money to have taken and see Charlie clutching his beloved Thunderbird 2 rocket, twins Tommy and Henry holding their favourite wooden plane with the red wings and propeller that spins.
So this Christmas please leave us parents who like to buy lots of stuff for our kids alone. Because you may not know why we are doing it, or when the presents are going to stop.