Wednesday, November 16, 2011

All I want for Christmas...

--by Juliet

I’m big into Christmas. I love the lights, and the trees, and the decorations. I watch The Grinch and A Charlie Brown Christmas and It’s a Wonderful Life, and I’m enchanted by the themes each and every year—the cornier the better. I adore the parties, and the color scheme, and the drinking.

But I’m not wild about the presents. I wish I could claim it was a Buddhist thing, but it has more to do with anxiety: giving someone the wrong thing; spending too much money; present disparity (theirs is bigger, making me feel guilty; or the reverse, making them beholden).

Besides, it’s just such a BUSY season. Maybe it’s just that I’m not much of a shopper, but I never find time to check out all the decorations and the movies and the social functions AND go shopping. In theory, I’d like to give everybody something handmade. Yeah. Not gonna happen.

My mother always wanted to give her three girls something truly special, something that would convey how much she cared for us. Some object that would please us as much as the little Japanese dolls her brother brought back from the war, or the cashmere sweater she received at her high school graduation, or the inlaid music box my father gave her as an engagement present. She failed every time. Instead, we would become saddled with an outfit that was woefully out of style, or fussy gold jewelry when we wanted pounded silver, or some little ceramic doohickey that had no purpose but to sit on the shelf collecting dust. But since it was from Mom, you were obliged to hang on to it for at least a few years before passing it along to the poor unsuspecting shoppers at Salvation Army.

What Mom failed to realize was that because she had so little in her early life – she was the youngest of eleven, raised during the depression—each possession was special. When money is never spent on something as frivolous as dolls or as exotic as cashmere, then those items are something to keep and treasure for a lifetime.

But our modern world is chock-full of cheap consumer items, available even to those with very little expendable income. Which might be why textiles now amount to more than 5% of our landfills -- when’s the last time you actually wore out a piece of clothing, to the point of it falling apart? My mother wore that cashmere sweater for more than twenty years, until it was so moth-eaten it couldn't be saved.

So that’s what presents often seem like to me: the burden of something I don’t need but can’t get rid of. On the other hand, the occasional note or present out of the blue? That’s something else entirely. A friend who found an old photo that “reminded her of me” in a junk shop. A scarf given to me “out of the blue” from a certain Pensfatales that was perfect in every way: perfect color, size, sheen. A pink golf ball that a friend went through the brambles to bring back to me, daring the ridicule of his fellow golfers.So as corny as it might sound, all I really want from my friends and family this season, as in most others, is their thoughts. Time, if possible, to sit and share a drink or watch The Grinch. A letter would be lovely. Or we could all DANCE like they do in Charlie Brown's world:


But then, if someone simply must buy me a present, a little cottage in the Loire Valley would do just fine. Just sayin', it wouldn't wind up in any landfill.

11 comments:

Martian77 said...

That is exactly why I don't like Christmas presents. And don't get me started on Secret Santa. If you tell someone what you want and they buy it for you, then they apologise for the 'boring' present. Thank you for summing it up so well!

Juliet Blackwell said...

Thanks, Martian77 -- you're right, people want to be able to read minds and get you exactly what you want without being told. We're a silly lot, aren't we? ;-)

Barbara said...

I sit and knit my love into goofy but useful items for my loved ones (one year it was a fish hat, this year it's a knitted ice scraper mitten) and my husband makes each couple a birdhouse that we paint. We have evolved into only wanting them around for a few days and they're happy to oblige. Fewer presents and more love, that's my holiday wish.

Rebecca Lyndon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Adrienne Miller said...

If someone is just handing out cottages, I'll take one. But make mine in the dordogne valley please.

Juliet Blackwell said...

Barbara -- that sounds exactly write, knitted objects and birdhouses! Love it!
And Adrienne, we'll get cottages and visit each other!

Eric said...

Well put. Presents are a problem. My stepmother agonizes every year over what to buy everyone, then finally she simply asks what we want and there never seems anything all that special about it. I'd rather that people simply buy me presents when they see something or think of something that makes them think, oh, Eric will really like this, then they get it for me. There's something more pure in that than there is in feeling obligated to go out and search for something because it's Xmas or my birthday or some other particular date.
That said, there is a small house on a rice terrace in a valley in Bali that I've wanted for many years.

Shannon Esposito said...

I have to agree with you on the shopping thing, I try to do most of my shopping online via Amazon. Is that wrong? The holidays would be so much less anxiety filled if they were just about spending time w/ friends eating, drinking and watching The Grinch! Hmmmm...I think that's a good goal this year!

Juliet Blackwell said...

Yes, Shannon, go for the Grinch!
Eric, keep working on that house on the rice terrace -- fingers crossed...

Rachael Herron said...

I read that one line as "It's such a BUSTY season," and I thought, oh yes! That's a good reason for the season!

Sophie Littlefield said...

yes. EXACTLY! what you said.