12 Days of Christmas on a Tight Budget

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On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me a partridge. In a pear tree. No kidding.

This was several years back, when we were still courting. But I’m reminded of her generosity and creativity every year about this time because some newspaper or magazine or blogger invariably does a feature article about how much it would cost today to give someone all the presents on that celebrated 12-day checklist. A piece published recently in Forbes, for instance, estimated that the tab would be a staggering $39,094.93.

Excuse the expression, but humbug. I can tell you from experience that it ain’t necessarily so.

The partridge in a pear tree that my true love gave to me that Christmas was a small, tree-like branch stuck into a cheery flower pot and adorned with little yellow balloons for pears and a dried mushroom that looked remarkably like a bird.

On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave me two Turtles, the chocolate candy kind, each sitting atop a bar of Dove soap.

On the third day of Christmas, she presented me with three French hens — well, okay, just one small, glass hen that she found at a Salvation Army thrift store, plus three eggs. I could tell they were French because each had a tiny black felt beret glued to its shell.

On the fourth day, while I was at work, my true love called my answering machine at home and mimicked the calls of four birds.

On the fifth day of Christmas, I opened a tasteful little jewelry box and discovered my true love had gifted me with five golden-looking rings obtained from her brother, a factory worker.

On the sixth day of Christmas, I got a basket of six eggs big enough to have been laid by geese.

On the seventh day, my true love presented me with a small, round hand mirror, its face gleaming like a lake. On it swam seven tiny, origami swans.

On the eighth day, I answered the doorbell at my house and on the front steps found a basket containing small cartons of milk products — 2%, skim, half-and-half, chocolate, eggnog — eight in all. The note was signed simply “The Maids.”

On the ninth day, my true love gave me an aerobics video with nine buff ladies dancing.

On the 10th day of Christmas, my true love picked me up in her car and drove us to parking garage in downtown Minneapolis, where we were living then. I knew it was the “lords a’leaping” day, but I couldn’t imagine how she would pull it off. Out on the street, I saw the city’s arts center up ahead. “Aha,” I thought. “Ballet.” But no. She steered me right past it. And then, as the Target Center marquee came into view, I got it. Ten royally well-compensated men — courtiers, if you will, members of the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves and Utah Jazz — were about to do some serious leaping. She had purchased affordable seats for us in the nose-bleed section. At halftime, I fell to one knee and proposed.

On the 11th day of Christmas, I was still so euphoric that I didn’t mind that my true love gave to me an old LP of bagpipers piping.

And on the 12th day, she gathered a dozen friends in her living room and we drummed up a solstice storm. We pounded on everything from bongos to doumbeks, from snare drums to empty Quaker Oats canisters.

The cost of this Christmas extravaganza, far from five figures, was less than 50 bucks. And it’s a gift that really has kept on giving. Those wonderful 12 days come back to me every time I hear that song.

Author’s note: My true love is my wife, singer-songwriter Marty Winkler. You can experience her musical gifts at https://store.cdbaby.com/cd/martywinkler1

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