Thank you for everything. I’ve used the phrase often, as a broad sweep of color and feeling, instead of mentioning the specific acts of love, service, friendship or grace for which I am thankful. But as I scanned an anonymous parent’s wish list for Moscow’s annual Christmas for Kids, I found a hand-written notation: “Thank you for anything.” The message stayed with me, not only while I shopped for children’s warm clothing and toys, but during many other moments in this holiday season. My husband, Lee, and I celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary during Thanksgiving weekend last month. It’s usually difficult for me to ask for help or gifts, but when our daughter asked what her dad and I wanted as a special anniversary present, I didn’t hesitate. Help your dad put up the Christmas lights, I said. Our son drove here from the Seattle area so that he, our daughter and son-in-law could learn from the master and light up our corner of B Street. Before the crew arrived, Lee had already checked each of our many (many, many) strings of multicolored lights for burnt-out bulbs; labeled and laid out extension cords in the front, side and backyards, and strung lights on our smaller fruit trees and along the back fence.

Our daughter held long light strings away from the garden dirt and served as design director for her dad, who stood on a stepladder, draping the strings into graceful scallops across the outer branches of our maple and apple trees. Our son climbed up and down a 12-foot extension ladder, hanging icicle lights along the eaves, while his wingman, our son-in-law, unreeled the long, easily tangled strings and passed gutter hooks up the ladder. My own contribution to the lights show has held steady for 50 years: I watch from a window as the spectacle unfolds, knowing the lights are expressions of my husband’s love and that this year’s display will be the most beautiful yet. That evening the five of us had dinner at one of our favorite Moscow restaurants, where our meals were nearly as delightful as the laughter and stories we shared around the table. Afterward, I could have spent half an hour thanking them for each moment of joy from that day. Our son-in-law would have smiled and listened politely to my soliloquy, but our kids would have started rolling their eyes after the first sentence. “Mom … just stop. We know. We love you, too.” Lee and I hugged them and thanked them for everything, and I kept each treasured “anything” in my heart.

The holiday season can be the toughest time of year for many families in our community. Kids come home from school and talk about the cool gifts their friends expect to find waiting under the tree. A parent’s knot of stress and guilt pulls tighter. Is it wrong to want your child to be like other kids on Christmas morning? To find presents wrapped in bright paper, and maybe even one magical gift that seemed too much to wish for? A parent’s love for a child can run deep enough and fierce enough to kick aside pride and fill out a wish list. I’ve reread the unknown parent’s Christmas for Kids note many times, and I always pause at the power of its four words. “Thank you for anything” is gratitude without expectation — only a fragile trust in a stranger’s promise to share the spirit of Christmas with a beloved child.

Craft Rozen’s column will return early in the new year. Benjamin BadKitten hopes Ms. Santa has forgotten his involvement in a regrettable incident that occurred last summer in her garden shoe. Email her at scraftroze@aol.com

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