Column: All I Want for Christmas

Getting the perfect gift – as every grandparent knows
Jo Mathis and her oldest daughter, Christie.

Jo Mathis and her oldest daughter, Christie.

Every year, we say we’re cutting back on Christmas presents. And every year, we go a little crazy anyhow.

So December 25 has always been one big bloated day of blatant materialism. Even the dog had her own little pile, which she mounted and guarded for dear life.

It’s been great fun.

But this year, we mean it. We’re cutting back.

My oldest daughter, Christie, in fact, declared some months ago that because she had enough stuff and we all had enough stuff, she no longer wanted to exchange gifts. For the rest of her life.

She’s still very generous. It just doesn’t translate into things you buy at the mall. Last weekend, for instance, she treated her sisters to dinner at Olive Garden followed by “Holiday Nights in Greenfield Village.”

And this Christmas morning, without spending a dime, Christie will come by with a surprise gift we’ll always remember.

Fresh from an ultrasound on the 23rd, she and her husband will tell us whether they’re expecting a boy or a girl.

I’m gonna be a granny!

I know.

If you’re a grandparent, you’re thinking how much I’m going to love it. And if you’re not, you’re thinking that makes me sound very old.

As a two-time mother of the bride this past year, I knew grandchildren wouldn’t be too far behind. And I knew Christie didn’t want to wait long. The Estimated Time of Arrival is May 18, just three days after her anniversary.

My husband says I shouldn’t be writing about all this because a) I know nothing about grannihood yet, and 2) can’t I keep ANYthing private?

Actually, I do know about grandparenthood because every person I know who is one gets that smile on his or her face whenever the subject comes up.

“It’s the best thing ever. You get to love ‘em up, and send ‘em back home.”

One woman told me it’s the only good thing about getting old.

Whenever we run into our friends, Tom and Sue McCartney of Saline, they’re holding at least one of their five grandchildren. And smiling.

“We love our grandkids so much, I’m not sure I can put it into words,” says Tom. “There’s nothing I’d rather do than spend time with them. I don’t remember a time in my life when I was happier. And it gets better every day.”

I was 24 when I gave birth to Christie. And although I read all the books I could squeeze into nine months, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. What the heck do you do with a whole, real, live person?

I had told my mother not to come up from Illinois immediately after I had the baby because Gary and I would want some time alone with him or her. Little did I know my emotions would be like a roller coaster on crack. Up, down, joy, despair. Christie wanted to nurse non-stop. I wanted to sleep. Christie cried a lot. I wanted to sleep.

So I was never so happy to see anyone at my door as I was the moment my mother finally arrived with her suitcase.

“You just go back to bed like a great big milking cow, and I’ll handle everything,” she said.

Ahhh. A cow! How perfect. All I had to do was milk and sleep. And Mother would handle the rest. I think I sobbed with joy.

Especially now that I am in possession of Everything There Is To Know about pregnancy/labor/childbirth/breastfeeding/childcare, I want to be that kind of mother-of-the-mother.

I want to be a big help without coming across as a know-it-all. (That might be tough.) I want to be there to lighten the burdens of parenting – which at times is more difficult than expectant parents can imagine. And I can’t wait to watch Christie and Don fall more and more in love with their child. They think they know. But again, they have no idea.

While in many ways I’ve enjoyed parenting older children even more than little ones – a phenomena that can be spelled f-r-e-e-d-o-m – there is something yummy about those early years.

Yes, Christmas is all about family, fellowship, and spiritual connection. But let’s face it. It’s a lot more fun when shared with a wide-eyed child bedazzled by the magic.

That’s why I’m already looking forward to Christmas 2010, when the baby will have become an essential part of our lives. I want only one gift: One of those hokey World’s Best Grandma mugs. And to know in my heart I deserve it.

About the author: Jo Mathis is an Ann Arbor-based writer.


  1. By Steve T
    December 20, 2009 at 1:33 pm | permalink

    I WARNED you that this would happen. Congratulations!

  2. By Sheila Gee
    December 20, 2009 at 7:31 pm | permalink

    Jo – I finally found you here! Congrats on your impending grannihood! Eager to cruise the rest of this site. Have a great holiday season.

  3. December 20, 2009 at 10:51 pm | permalink

    Congratulations, how exciting. So good to read a column by you, you were my fav on the News.

  4. December 21, 2009 at 12:40 pm | permalink

    Seriously, Jo, you’re going to be the best grandma ever (aside from my own mom and grandma)! Congrats. I’m betting on a girl. Your clan just doesn’t do boys.

    And, speaking of Christmas gifts, I’m still waiting on my ornament :)

  5. By Deb Anderson
    December 21, 2009 at 1:42 pm | permalink

    Ah! Absolutely heart warming, AS ALWAYS!!!! It’s great finding and reading your column here at the A2 Chronicle, Jo!!!

  6. By Casey Hans
    December 21, 2009 at 1:47 pm | permalink

    Hi Jo,
    Congratulations to your family! And congratulations to the rest of us who are able to share in your joy and in your continued fine writing. Glad to see you have an outlet here.

  7. By John Fountain
    December 21, 2009 at 3:52 pm | permalink

    You have put the Ypsilanti Press and the Ann Arbor News to their eternal rest. Please be careful with Chronicle. We want to continue to enjoy your wonderful writing for years to come,

  8. By jo mathis
    December 21, 2009 at 7:44 pm | permalink

    Thank you, thank you, everyone. Such kind words – all appreciated.

    I’ll report back here when we learn the sex. Christie has some cute little way she’s going to tell us, and that really will be the highlight of the day. (That, and the tool belt I told Gary I want for Christmas.)

    John, fingers crossed I don’t jinx the Chronicle. That really would be too sad, wouldn’t it?!

  9. December 22, 2009 at 1:00 pm | permalink

    Your column’s a welcome addition to the Chronicle fare, Jo. Congrats to both.

  10. By Joan Kauffman
    December 24, 2009 at 1:18 am | permalink

    What a pleasure to read your writing. I have to admit I am jealous because “there is something yummy about those early years”.

    As opposed to jinxing the AANews/Ypsi Press, IMO without your writing it would have died sooner than it did.

  11. By jo mathis
    December 26, 2009 at 8:00 am | permalink

    Post-Christmas update: Christie’s wish has come true. She’s having a daughter! We’re all thrilled.

    Thanks again, everyone, for your kind words.

  12. By Zena Zumeta
    December 26, 2009 at 5:17 pm | permalink

    I am thrilled to see your wonderful writing again, Jo. Thanks for sharing. Husbands don’t understand….

  13. By Jane Talcott
    December 27, 2009 at 6:26 pm | permalink

    So good to “hear” from you. Have missed your columns.

  14. By Lynn Suits Lamkin
    December 28, 2009 at 10:13 am | permalink

    It feels like home to be able to read your column again.
    Writing as a ‘grandaunt” I have found the coming of a new generation an exciting, brave and beautiful event.

  15. By Steve Fisher
    January 1, 2010 at 5:56 pm | permalink

    I’ll add my sentiment to those who are saying, “Good to read you again!” Been missing you since July 23rd (or whenever it was).

    I have the final edition of the Ann Arbor News squirreled away in a drawer. Not exactly sure what I’ll do with it eventually, but it just didn’t seem right to toss it into the recycling bin.

    Congratulations on your impending grandmahood!

  16. By Lisa Dengiz
    January 4, 2010 at 4:15 pm | permalink

    Hoorah for you, and your wonderful family, Jo!

    Am also glad and grateful that you are back in our lives with your moving, personal and thought provoking words. We have missed you!

    And you will make one cool granny!