"You see this piece of paper?" Cole asked, as he climbed in the backseat. "Do you see what it says?"
The paper read: Do not read.
"You know what that means?" he asked me.
"Yes," I began, "that means whoever sees that will definitely want to read it."
"No!" he exclaimed. "It means do not read it. It's private."
Then you should have wrote "please read me" on it, I thought.
"You aren't gonna read it, are you?" he inquired, a seriousness in his voice.
"No, Cole, I respect your privacy. Just know if Nennie saw that, she would immediately tear that sucker open though."
I didn't mention the mysterious paper again. Cole did.
"Mama, you remember that paper?" he asked.
"You mean the one you showed me and told me to not read?"
He nodded. "Do you want to know what was in it?"
"No; you said you wanted it to be private. I respect that and don't have to know."
He frowned. There was a conflict going on - he wanted to tell me something but wanted to keep it secret at the same time.
"But, it's important," he said.
"I didn't bother it," I reassured him. "I don't and won't do that, I promise."
He sighed, not sure how to proceed. "Mama, what do you want for Christmas?"
I wasn't expecting that question.
"Baby, I don't really want anything."
I don't. The things I want, I would never ask for. The things I need, no one would get me as a gift.
"But what if I was getting you a gift, what would you want?"
"I would want whatever you made me," I answered honestly. I would take one of his paintings over a Monet any day.
He shook his head. "No, not made. If I bought you something."
"I don't want you spending your money," I told him.
"I want to." he said emphatically. "There's a Christmas shop at school, I went in there and saw all this stuff I wanted to get you and Daddy. But the trouble is, I don't know what to get you and the stuff I wrote down on my paper, that I wanted to get you, was $77. Daddy's was about as much. I kept looking and looking. That's way more than what I have," he said.
"Oh Cole," I began, hugging him tight. "I don't want anything. So don't worry."
"But you and Daddy never open anything on Christmas morning, y'all just sit there, drinking coffee and watching me opening presents. It's not fair."
"Well, Cole, we don't do gifts most of the time," I said.
We didn't. Come to think of it, we never had. I probably had been shorted about a dozen gifts or so over the years.
"But you should. Everyone should have something to open on Christmas. It's not fair if they don't."
How did I tell my child - who is still young enough to believe that life is fair - that sometimes, fairness has nothing to do with it?
The following day, a friend and I were talking about what our children wanted for Christmas. Our conversation merged into how we normally didn't do grown-up gifts.
"I am just thankful my kids are healthy, me and my husband are healthy, we have jobs. For me, those are the ‘gifts' I want around my tree," my friend said.
That night, Cole had an announcement when we arrived home.
"I know you said not to worry about buying y'all anything for Christmas," he began. "But you also know I don't listen to you all the time. So..." he reached in his book bag and pulled out shiny, foily gift bags.
"Merry Christmas early!" he cried excitedly.
Lamar and I looked at each other. I tore open one of the bags he handed me. Inside, was a velvet rose.
"Oh, how pretty," I said. "And it won't die."
"Look inside of it," he said, his eyes dancing with joy.
Inside was a delicate heart pendant, all sparkly and lovely. "Oh, Cole, it's beautiful," I said sincerely. He squealed and grabbed me tight.
"You like it?" he asked, bouncing up and down.
"I love it."
"I knew you would. Open your other gifts."
The next two held a ring, which Cole said was my favorite stone, an amethyst. I'm not as convinced as he was that it was real but I loved it anyway. The last bag held two lip balms that looked like lollipops.
"I know you like makeup and rocks over fancy jewelry. And you always call me your heart, that's why I got you the heart necklace."
"It is all perfect," I said, giving him a squeeze.
For Lamar, there was a World's Best Daddy medal - to make up for a cycling trophy he won decades ago and lost.
"This is far better than a cycling trophy," he told Cole.
We couldn't help but get caught up in the happiness and the joy as Cole bounced around, clapping and laughing over us telling him how much we loved our gifts, until we were laughing and clapping too.
"Mama, now I know why you enjoy watching me open my gifts on Christmas morning so much," he said, squeezing me again.
"Yeah," he said, "Seeing someone you love happy is the best gift you can get of all."
Sudie Crouch is an award winning humor columnist and author of the recently e-published novel, "The Dahlman Files: A Tony Dahlman Paranormal Mystery."