This is the post, right here. I seem to end up with one sappy, sentimental or philosophical post during this Thanksgiving-Hanukkah-Festivus-Kwanza-Solstice-Christmas silliness. Looks like today is the day.
It may be the last work day for you for the year, or before Christmas. (Not for Me, mind you, Christmas Elves work right to the bitter end).
( Gifts from the Attic Stairs is probably the one that most triggers the teary-eyed feeling, or so I’ve heard.)
It’s a wonderful life; shouldn’t that be enough?
My faults: Human being, right here! Who doesn’t want to feel loved, feel accepted, feel part of the crowd? Who doesn’t equate, on some (possibly subconscious) level, the quality and quantity of a gift when deciding where they rank in the universe? Who doesn’t SAY that Christmas is about giving, yet feels that odd heart-drop, that deflation, when they open a present– and they scratch their head. Bringing you right back to the Valentines Day in 3rd grade, when your mailbox at school wasn’t full of greetings from all the cool kids.
It goes like this. As part of the Christmas party, a largish group of creative souls and I gathered and had a little Secret Santa Exchange. Small dollar amount, and you don’t know who will receive your gift. It is a token, a thought, a part of Christmas spirit put into action.
And as we all collectively opened our gifts, paying attention possibly to the person who got the gift you gave, but mostly oohing and aahing over the gift you got, I sat. Slightly gut-punched and slightly resentful and knowing I was being, if not childish, at least somewhat churlish.
For around me were a variety of either hand made items, (which I might or might not have enjoyed receiving or using) or crafting supplies that had a theme and possibly patterns for use, or some Christmas tchotchke that at least indicated the holiday at hand, gaily wrapped and clever and well, they made sense. Some gift givers went overboard, some stayed right at about the budget. And some cheaped out. Like in real life.
I got the latter. I sat with my three random notions, that while still in packaging, had obviously not been purchased with an eye toward creating a gift bag of goodies. Rather, they were bedraggled; packaged and hand-priced with amounts that indicated they had been living on someone’s shelf for too long before jumping into a crumpled bit piece of tissue and escaping via a used gift bag.
I didn’t have to thank anyone; there was no card, no having to look someone in the eye and say ‘the gifts were perfect, useful, you can’t EVER have enough of these, or I’ve been thinking of trying this!’ (All things I Would Have been able to voice, as I was Raised Properly.) No Christmas wish attached. Just these things.
I moved on with my day, this stupid cloud hanging over me, this confusion, this petty aggravation. Why participate if you don’t want to do so? The gift I gave didn’t exceed by much the dollar amount set, but “I” thought it clever. It was themed, color-coordinated, useful, appropriate to the gathering and I even added a small Christmas-y item as a gift tag. I enjoyed making it so much I made myself one!
I lathered and repeated this story in my head as I drove to work, rubbing as big a bruise as possible. I built up a great resentment toward this person. And then, I backed up. I attempted to find Grace. My grown-up self took over, and I tried to rationalize, to make excuses, to find a reason for giving a gift like that. To understand why I was so bothered.
I came to these conclusions:
- She is just not a gift giver. There are such creatures. (I am not one– I enjoy choosing, thinking, plotting …I really DO enjoy the excitement of giving) She doesn’t know how to give—maybe she was never GIVEN good gifts. Maybe people never took HER into account when shopping for her.
- She is cleaning out her crafting space and discovered she had duplicates of things that she loved so much she needed to share the wealth, but neglected to share those feelings with me because of the anonymity of the exchange.
- I attempted and rejected finances. (Grace is HARD) Because three color-coordinated scraps of fabric tied with a pretty bit of ribbon would have been more gift-like.
- She was at the hospital all night with her husband and realized she forgot the party! She grabbed the first things she could find and ran with them, because she really needed a few hours out of the hospital and the impending doom that was surely on the way.
- She wanted a gift. The gift that she would receive at this party was possibly going to be the only gift she got because she doesn’t have any family, or her family is estranged or far away, and Christmas is a lonely depressing time for her. So she found something to give, just so she would have something to open. For all I know, she took HER package home, and it is still waiting for Christmas Day, to open, alone.
I felt better—slightly chagrined at being so petty, but better. Giving is what makes people happy. Giving a hug, a cookie, a present, a smile.
And after all, there is not an inch of space in my studio for more STUFF. I have enough and then some. I BUY what I want, when I need or want it. This thought led me down a rabbit hole. I read historical novels. I started with Little House on the Prairie as a young girl. I recall that a Christmas gift was a few walnuts and an orange. Possibly a yard of ribbon. I could give gifts to hundreds and hundreds of people if all I needed to give was a yard of ribbon!
Gift giving has become a competition, because we all DO buy for ourselves. Shopping is a sport, and we don’t wait or want for much of anything; at least not longer than it takes for the UPS man to drop it off on the back porch. In order to create the magic of Christmas we have to go to greater and greater lengths, we have to create needs and wants in order to find enough gifts to buy. Look at some of the products that get into the Christmas advertising chaos. Surely you wouldn’t GIVE people some of the things that are advertised! They are ill-hidden hints to YOU to buy YOU something special while out buying others GIFTS.
I love to find that perfect gift. I have whittled my gift giving list down over the years, but I am still on occasion, compelled to get that perfect something for someone I love, who I KNOW will love the gift. I smiled as I packed up a big box of gifts for a large exchange –I made and shopped and enjoyed putting everything together, and I hope that when the box is opened on Christmas morning, someone will smile! —> Wall hanging for my Secret Santa!
I buy/make and I wrap (or Santa Timmy wraps) and I am happy. Giving really is wonderful. But not the biggest, the most, the priciest. I don’t attempt BUY affection, because I think that kind of affection is fleeting. I try to give gifts that suit the recipient and that doesn’t have a dollar amount attached. (Hugs are free AND priceless.) And so, back to my little gifts. They ARE useful. And you can’t have too many straight pins.
A few days later my husband and I stood in the VMFA museum gift shop, talking ourselves out of some fantastic coffee mugs. We agreed we I had a coffee mug problem (Read: ADDICTION) and that we I needed to weed some out. But I have already edited my coffee mugs. The ones still with me all Mean Something! We concluded there needed to be a moratorium on coffee mugs. Coffee mugs don’t die. They don’t go bad. (Well, they get cracks in the glazing, but that only indicates, like the Velveteen Rabbit, how much they are loved.) They seem to multiply. I am very careful with my coffee, so I have lost very few to breaking. The special ones that DO chip or break, that have memories? They go into the china cabinet to admire.
<—These are my grandmothers mugs and cups.
I went to another smaller Christmas gathering the other night, with essentially the same type of Christmas exchange. And when I opened my gift?
An adorable coffee Mug.
Merry Christmas! Remember that GIVING is it’s own reward. And —HUGS? One size fits all, always at hand, and they are more needed than you may realize.
I’m off to another Christmas gathering tonight, present in hand!