It’s Never the Gift You Think

Sophie asked Santa for a scooter. We thought that would be her favorite. I bought her her first doll—the kind that has hair you can brush, and eyes that can open and close. We thought that would be her favorite. She got a princess dress from her grandma, a handmade doll from Nini, Candy Land (which we play daily) from her great grandma. We thought these would be her favorites.

We were wrong. It’s always the last-minute, throw-in-the cart gift that wins out. The less than $20 one. (Sometimes, even the “free” one, when it comes to boxes and tissue paper and items found in kitchen cabinets.)

She loves her princess castle. (Discovery Kids; Bed, Bath & Beyond; less than $20 w/ coupon.) All the kids do. They knock it over and it becomes a cave. They hide in it, have snacks in it and play peek-a-boo with each other through the windows. They knock it over and pop it up. Sophie reads in it, colors in it and yes, sometimes, she even uses it as it was designed to be used—as a castle, for a princess.

It’s big. And clashes with everything in our dining room. And yet, I smile every time I see it, have to move it or put it back together after particularly rough play. It’s always the simple thing, the least expected. And even though I gave a lot of thought to her other presents, and did a ton of research, the fact that it is always the simple one makes me happy, too.

“Pleasure is spread through the earth
In stray gifts to be claimed by whoever shall find.” —William Wordsworth