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.