Don't Buy Memories, Make Them

Photo: David Blaikie

I'm all about cheap, or at least cheaper, gifts this holiday season. Further still, I'm all about creating gifts that actually last in value and relevance past the next news cycle, and I'm really "bout it, bout it" when it comes to gifts my toddler son won't have broken and be crying over by December 26.

This year I thought of something to give him that could address all of those concerns. Here's the backstory:

Lexington I. Leffall, my first-born masculine child, loves things that move: planes in the sky, big trucks that rumble and grumble, and trains that have gone from being "choo choos" to "train trains" and now just plain "trains." 

But what he has the most affinity for is buses. His first complete sentence, coming at about 16 months, was not a sentence but a musical phrase yelled out at an ear-bleeding level: "ALL THROUGH THE TOWN." (He had a musical yellow bus with a red button on it, that when pressed, it blurted out this song.)

And all through the town — and country — we went together. We moved on airplanes, buses, trains, and trollies in my native Los Angeles, Washington D.C., Chicago, parts of New Mexico, San Diego, and New York City. Peering out of the window, his eyes were illuminated with the type of joy, wonder, and intrigue that evokes envy in a grown man with "real-world" issues, wishing I could be as passionate about something this little guy is about things that move.

Wherever we go, Lex grabs all the brochures from the buses and trains, attempts to read them, plays with them, and calls out the stops as if he is the driver, conductor, or operator. He has dozens and dozens of brochures from a half-dozen cities.

So this year I cut, pasted, and stenciled. With the help of a craft enthusiast, I created a masterpiece of memories: a scrapbook called "Lexington's Book of Buses, Trains, and Trollies." (Shhhhhhhhhhhhh, don't tell him; it's for Christmas). It takes a little time, effort, and creativity for that person you love and care about. But scrapbooks are a great way to preserve memories, especially for little ones who still get thrills from just looking at pictures of the things they love, whether they're buses or butterflies. 

If you think scrapbooks are corny or time-consuming, or you don't know where to start, there are sites such as that can stoke the fire.

So "scrap" the wonton consumerism and hit the books, so to speak. If you already have pictures, old magazines, or in my case, bus brochures, the source material is free. The cost of an album or book and materials is nominal at $20 to $45 compared to (insert the price of whatever hot doo-hickey here) that will be obselete by Boxing Day.

Sure, you'll get a few other trinkets to play with, champ, but I hope you like you big book, Lex!

I can't wait to see his face.

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Guest's picture

Fun idea Jabulani.

I think my 13-month old son has the same bus too! But he's more into dogs.

And as far as cheap gifts for kids go - I think I'm about to find out how fascinating wrapping paper and boxes are.

Guest's picture

On the same note, I think it's definitely better to get your kids experiences as gifts instead of "stuff". The memories last forever, while all that junk gets thrown out in a few months after they get bored with it.

Guest's picture

Great post. One year the borough dug up the road outside our house, We set our youngest out on the porch in his highchair and he sat enthralled for over an hour.

Guest's picture

This is a good post. With any gift it is the thought that counts, as the saying goes. Going out and buying $150 gift for somebody may require very little effort (thought). Making them a gift, even if its worth only a few dollars total in supplies, requires much more thought and effort and usually has much more of an impact on the receiver.