Remember when you were young and the most exciting time of the year seemed to be fall? That first morning you opened the door to head out but then turned around to grab a sweater. You were thrilled to have to wear one. I believe, at least for me, it signaled celebrations ahead. From trick or treat to family meals around turkey and dressing to the season of giving. Oh, how I loved the fall and all that came with it.


Then adulthood set in and while still a beloved season, a new feeling joined the party- pure stress. For me, it was realizing there was, so much to get done. What gifts do I need and how will I pay for all of this extra stuff?

One holiday in particular when my three sons were young, every time I asked what they wanted they said “Simon Says.” Truly, unaware of what the heck it was since I thought it was a game we played as children, not something to buy. Now remember this was before the internet, no Google to quickly find out who had them in stock. Every spare minute from work I drove from one toy store to the other with no luck. Finally, about to give up a week before time to give the toy to them, I FOUND ONE! 

Success Short Lived

The next day so proud that I had been successful in finding old Simon I almost fainted when my older two sons came in saying “Oh we want…” I don’t even remember what they said as I was in shock after all the searching and buying something out of my budget. They were just children, they didn’t understand. That experience however taught me a valuable lesson, it’s really not about what you buy. It is what you give. From that day forward, even as my career progressed along with my income, it wasn’t about the money. It was about love, it was about what you give to your children. 

My sons are all grown now. I doubt they have even looked back at the “Simon Says” holiday. But they do remember when we went to the lake to collect soda cans and recycled them then getting snow cones on Saturdays. They do remember a Labor Day holiday when on the spur of the moment we packed a bag and drove to Carlsbad Caverns. In truth, they remember stopping at a Rotary tent where there were serving hot chocolate, coffee and donuts- a reward for leaving at 5:00 am. It was the “okay” they received when they wanted to paint a mural of “Pink Floyd’s The Wall” in their bedroom and I said go ahead.


Perhaps we should find a way to put the stress, mostly self-imposed by our reactions to societies expectations, on a shelf. Spend time, not money. Teach them how to bake a pecan pie, perhaps how to mend a torn garment, or how to plant in a garden and enjoy the flowers. Investing in your children, loved ones or friends in ways that will be remembered for many years long after no one remembers “Simon Says”.

Turn stress to joy, things to experiences, time spent, not time shopping. Bake the cookies and pies, go on adventures, share stories with your children, and grandchildren, those will be the best gifts and will leave happy memories for a lifetime. And you just might find you had the time of your life, as well. 

“In Loving Memory of Grandma Vangie…” she did right.

Read more of Tricia’s articles on Plaid.