Gift questing

Dec 21

It’s December 21st, people.  December twenty-first.  (This becomes meaningful later in the post.)

As I listen to my parents reflect upon my childhood Christmas’s, we all laugh about what they remember.  When I was very little we would pack up and drive to my dad’s family in Westlake, Ohio.  One year, according to the telling of the tale, my dad basically dropped his four girls off at Grandma’s house and then spent the next three days driving to every toy store in the region in search of a My Little Pony Beauty Parlor Salon.  He finally spotted one (that they didn’t know they had) waaaaay up high on a top rack, and that was the gift that got opened under our tree that year.  A particular Fisher Price village one year.  Another year, Cabbage Patch was the rage: I think Mom and Dad had help from a superior shopper to secure those.  I opened up the first Nintendo one year when I also awoke with the flu; I remember playing Duck Hunt while laying horizontal with my head on the pillow because I felt terrible but was also excited about my gift.

Gift quests — the hunt for the one thing your child wants — are like a parenting right-of-passage, I think.

Except, in my era of clickity-click, the quest doesn’t require nearly as much effort as it seemed to for parents raising children in the 80s.  I imagine my dad driving from store to store and am still humbled by the love that shows.  Remember?  I’m a gifter.  Gifts speak deep to my heart on many levels.

Greta is five.  She wants All The Things.  We don’t get many catalogues, but the ones we do get are circled with over ninety-eight percent of the items with big ‘G’s on them.  She’s more toy-of-the-day type… her interests are creative and ever-changing and fanciful and whimsical.  She’s easy to delight.  She has told everyone who asks her what she wants for Christmas in specific detail, though she’s not very consistent in her answer.  Like I said, her interests are always evolving; one day her homemade box creation is a puppet show theater, the next day it’s a space ship.

Maren is nine.  She has smiled shyly, quietly shrugged, and said “I don’t know” to each and every person who has asked her what she wants for Christmas this year.  Quietly, back in October, she asked if we could please send her American Girl doll, which she has played with often, back to get her hair fixed up and refreshed.  She wanted her old toy fixed up; she did not want a new toy.  I know my girl, so I can make guesses (and generally, I think, good guesses) about what will delight her.  I’ve asked all her friends’ moms what they’re getting for their girls.  I have now stashed away gifts for all our categories: Santa, stockings, something you want/need/special/read.  I’m done. I’m organized.

Then.  This morning.  Maren gently passes me a note, and says, “Can you make sure Santa gets this?”

“Sure babe,” I smile as I take the Dear Santa letter from her hands.  “Want to tell me what’s in it?”

She breaks down into a sobbing cry and tells me about the American Girl doll toy that she wants.  She’s sorry she wants it.  She doesn’t want Santa to have to get such a big gift for her.  It’s silly to want a that toy.  She shouldn’t want something so expensive and silly.  But.  It’s the one thing she wants.  She keeps trying to think of something else but her mind just keeps coming back to this one thing.

As my own eyes blur with tears at her heartfelt sincerity and conflicted emotions and I squeeze her tightly, I also am laughing with the ironic nature of it being December twenty-first.  I have a jolt of joy that as I’ve noticed so many other big-girl changes this year, she’s still asking for a doll toy for Christmas — she’s still little for another year.  I squeeze her and tell her that a heart’s desire is never silly or embarrassing.  “It’s always so important to listen to your heart,” I say, “And I love that you shared your heart with me.  Now, let’s wait and see what Santa says.”

She nods, sniffling, and leaves the room.  She’s caught in the little girl world where she doesn’t believe in Santa anymore, but she does believe in Christmas magic.  There’s hope in wanting it, and fear she won’t get it.

Brad is working from home today, so go in his office and hand him the note and tell him what she told me.  We both put our heads in our hands and commiserate that after all our planning, we are in this situation.  We look at each other: Do we spoil her?  Do we take back everything else we got her?  Do we even try?  We decide to try and see if we can get it.  (I love Brad.)

I look up the item online.  It doesn’t come up.  Not good.  I call American Girl and spend twelve minutes on hold, and hang up when Maren comes back in the room after her shower.  I take the girls to their playdates (today is supposed to be my wrapping day), and I call American Girl again.  After seventeen minutes on hold, I get disconnected when they put me through to customer service (to be fair I think it was my bluetooth in my car that messed up the call, not their fault).  Thirteen more minutes on hold, and  I find out it’s discontinued and unavailable from American Girl corporate, but it is still available in select retail stores.  I ask about the retail store that is in my state.  Nope.  I ask about a few more, and get a list of cities.

I check Washington DC because I have friends there and I *think* one might work downtown near(ish) that store.  It’s available.

I post on Facebook that I’m looking for an elf to visit the DC store and a shipping store and to message me if that’s a possibility.  It’s a big favor.

I check Miami, FL because Baby Sister is there today because the cruise ship she’s working on is offloading/onloading passengers there today.  The item is there, but her timeline is too tight for that much Uber-ing, shipping, and logistics as Port Miami and American Girl Miami are not near one another.

I check Seattle, WA because a friend messaged me after seeing my Facebook post about Washington DC, and says he’ll go to the Seattle store after work.  This is a guy who was a good friend and broomball champion in college, but whom I haven’t talked to in ten years.  I’m overwhelmed that he stepped in.

I check Minneapolis MN because Brad’s family is centered near(ish) there, and I have a handful of people I could put on the spot if they are near the Mall of America.

I get a bunch of Facebook replies/suggestions/offers.  It’s all awesome, and I’m actually having fun in “the thrill of the hunt” for this toy.  I’m feeling loved by the people who are helping.  One friend calls her daughter, who lives in DC.  One friend calls her niece who is visiting DC.  One friend Facebook messages all her people to see if they have one they can part with.

So. Many. Big-hearted. Friends.

It turns out that a local friend has a college-age niece who is visiting Washington DC to help take care of her grandmother with Alzheimer’s, and they were planning on doing some Christmas shopping today.  They went to the American Girl store there, and got it!  The niece is coming back to Ohio at the end of the week, so we don’t even have to pay shipping charges (though I think we need to get this family a finder’s fee!)

Phew!  Less than six hours after The Santa Letter 2016, and we have the package secured!  Thank you Team Village!  Woo hoo!

It’s been a fun day for me.  I got nothing accomplished as I have been working the phone, computer, and thumb-typing.  I also did some pacing.  I feel like I got a Parenting Badge, though, and I now have story that will live on through the ages.

And the best part is yet to come: the look on her face.

Thank you for that gift!  Happy December 21st, people!  I hope your blood pressure was better than mine today.  Ha!

I really do love all my people so much.  Thank you for loving me so well too.


  1. Yay for Christmas miracles! It’s a lovely story.

  2. Maryann /

    I love everything about this story! Merry Christmas Anderson Family! ?

  3. What a wonderful mom you are!

  4. Michelle smith /

    Thanks for sharing . This story reminds me of a few of my own toy hunts that I have been on and that one item that must be under the tree on Christmas morning .Looking back at what was involved in finding that special toy or doll on my childs wish list and the journey each child’s list sent me on . I never gave up on their wish and continued until the item on my child’s list was fulfilled . The memories I made and was able to share with them when they got old enough to share. This story made me reflect back to all those memories and remembering the looks on each one of their faces as they opened each present Christmas morning . Those memories will forever be with me . Merry Christmas to you and your family .Can’t wait to hear Marens reaction and the look on her face .

  5. Made me tear up!! Wonderful Christmas story, well done!!

  6. Amazing!

  7. That is an awesome story Jen! You rock! This is a Christmas Maren will never forget. Merry Christmas to you, Brad, and the girls?✝️!

  8. Marlayne Skeens /

    Yes Virginia there is a Santa ? Happy Dance ?

  9. Lori6NV /

    Super present sleuth!! Great job, mama!!

  10. Charissa /

    Absolutely wonderful! Merry Christmas Jen. Hugs to your family.

  11. I am glad u can make her Christmas special. I hope u all have a wonderful holiday. Hugs

  12. Who says Santa isn’t real?

  13. Mici Eubanks /

    I love this! You are such an incredible family and that beauty attracts the incredible people in our world!
    My family had a similar – drive from store to store – on Christmas Eve of ’95 because I told them (that day) Santa was bringing me a pink fur coat.

  14. Great story:) So happy my oldest is still wanting dolls too! Have a blessed Christmas!

  15. This brought a smile to my heart. As the parent of a special needs child, my one joy is he will always believe. Whether they believe or not, it is love that makes Christmas. Merry Christmas. Thanks for sharing your stories with us. You truly Do Well very Well! 🙂

  16. This was so sweet. Thanks for sharing!!

  17. AWESOME! I ❤Christmas miracles!

  18. Stephanie /

    Christmas blessings to all of you. xo

  19. The power of Faith and Hope, we all need a big dose!! Maren will be Amazed…. Merry Christmas to your whole family!!

  20. Ah, so good to hear the happy ending after seeing your Facebook post yesterday!

  21. Well after all this you better post a picture when that special girl opens her special present. Wishing you happy holidays for sure…and sending much love your way for all four of you….

  22. We had the same hunt – an American Girl gymnastics set that was sold out everywhere but Seattle and Atlanta. We are in Texas! But the mom of a friend of mine was close to the Atlanta store and bought it for me. It showed up in the mail this week! Thank goodness for the army of folks willing to help make Christmas awesome for our kiddos!

  23. Your sweet Maren has twisted my heart around her selfless fingers. ♥