The Gift That Will Last My Son a Lifetime: A Pineapple Upside Down Cake?

The holiday season is beginning and I’m seeing the gift idea blog posts popping up in my news feed.  You know exactly the ones I’m talking about-what to give someone that has everything, best gifts for Dad, what Mom really wants, what experiences to gift…and of course the top 20 must have toys.

But I don’t have a list for you.

Instead I’m going to share a story about me, my youngest son, and my mom.

About this time four years ago, I really dove into the journey of de-cluttering, minimizing and simplifying.  I was fed up with all the STUFF: the emotional, as well as energetic drain that came with it.

Now when I say fed up, I mean I was declaring WAR.

And I was pissed because not only was Christmas right around the corner, but also because both of my boys had birthdays on the way and all of it combined to taunt me with the potential onslaught of even more STUFF!

  • More STUFF to find homes for.
  • More STUFF to hound the boys to put away.
  • More STUFF to manage squabbles that would ensue.
  • More STUFF to create visual chaos.
  • More STUFF to manage frustration over the “must haves” that are “has beens” within a matter of weeks.
  • More STUFF to suck energy from me.

I remember sitting on the stairs with furrowed brows, glaring at my hubby as he joyfully clicked away on Amazon like a kid in a candy store because he got an awesome deal on that thing one of the boys REALLY wanted.


Now don’t get me wrong. I LOVE the Christmas season.  The music, the movies, the tree, the lights the goodwill towards others, the baking, the family time…I love it all! So I was seriously struggling with my Scrooge attitude.

At that moment, I decided two things: First, and most important, this is about me and I have no right to “Scrooge” all over everyone’s Christmas. I can set healthy boundaries and assert that I don’t want gifts simply for the sake of receiving gifts.  I will also honor the happiness that gift giving brings to my family. I thought very carefully about the things I needed, yet had not purchased for myself because I was trying to be the “Budget Queen”. Instead, I asked for gift cards to restaurants (dinner is my nemesis) and gift certificates for a pedicure… those sorts of things.

The second decision was what I would tell the Grandmas when they asked for wish lists.

The challenging Grandma would be my own mother.

My Mom was a creative and to this day I’m still not sure what lit her up inside more – giving the gift or wrapping the gift! Her packages were always beautifully wrapped and she LOVED doing it.

So to suggest she instead give each boy a “Date with Gran”, worried me as to how it would be received.

It was awkward, to say the least…

“But I can’t wrap that! I want them to have something to unwrap!”

So I suggested she make them a gift certificate and put it in a box, which gave her something to wrap.

“But what if they are disappointed?” she asked.

Now, here is where the conversation became a tad difficult.  You see, we had this conversation about 1 and 1/2 years after she had been diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer.

My boys were young and had not spent a lot of time with my mom because of the distance between our homes, but also because she had spent a great deal of time caring for my Dad who died of brain cancer.

Now she was dealing with her own battle.

She also didn’t quite know what to do with two boys, so she was shy about taking them out on her own. While I wanted her to spend time with them, I simply didn’t know how long she would be feeling well. I wanted them to have time to connect; to spend time with her creating memories.

So many of my memories with my grandparents were of us baking, camping, or horseback riding; I vaguely remember the “things” they gave me.

For the boys, a toy would be exciting for 5 seconds, and then most likely be forgotten.

Perhaps they may remember “Gran gave me that,” but not an actual memory where time was spent together connecting over  something like baking, art, or a favorite meal and I felt that getting one on one time with each grandchild would be a special gift for her as well.

She was apprehensive at first, but after I gave suggestions she was fully on board.

That year on Christmas morning, both boys received a “Date with Gran” coupon.  Now were they over the moon about receiving them? Not really. I mean, they weren’t disappointed – it’s just the instant gratification wasn’t there.

The true gift of the coupon came out as a memory shortly after my mom died in 2016, almost 3 years later…

My youngest son (10 at the time) and I were snuggling one night and he said, “I want to bake a pineapple upside down cake.”  I was a little confused by this as he and I had never baked one before and he is all about making cakes with fondant.

I asked him where that came from and he reminded me all about his one on one “Date with Gran”, and how they baked a pineapple upside down cake together.

While the cake baked, they painted and ate mac-n-cheese for lunch.

He recalled a full afternoon with his Gran, as they connected doing something they both loved to do (and without the distraction of his older brother).

My heart grew 3 sizes that night and tears streamed down my face.  That gift was a gift of connection that would last him a lifetime. I’m certain a toy would not have brought on the same type of sentiment in the retelling of the story.

Keep the Holidays Simple.

Consider gifts of time and connection this year.

It could very well be a toy or a game that you play together, or an experience neither of you have yet to experience.

Or, it could be something as simple as baking a pineapple upside down cake together.













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