It’s that time of year again. The leaves have started to turn, flit and fluttering gold and red. There’s a hint of wood smoke and an apple tartness in the air; time to dig out your gloves and search for your scarf. The sun is beginning to hunker down and the nights are creeping close.
It’s a time for pumpkins and cider, corn husks and…..Christmas lists.
Every year the shops seem to have their Christmas paraphernalia out earlier and earlier. You can’t buy an autumnal gourd without turning around to find yourself face to face with a Yuletide display.
I’ve promised merry this year. I’ve promised bright. But man, it’s early.
Yet stockists everywhere are prepping. Shelves are packed with hat and scarf sets, wash bags pre-packed with scent and shower gel. Bath sets and ties. Box-set DVDs that you hope and pray your Great Uncle John will appreciate. Wait, does Great Uncle John even have a DVD player?? Knicks and knacks and bits and bobs and things and majiggies. Whose-its and whats-its and all and sundry.
I don’t need anything, not in the true sense of the word. I’m not sure I even want anything. Ok, I’d really like some micro-dermabrasion and possibly some Juvederm filler for the rapidly deepening lines around my mouth, but those things are notoriously tough to wrap.
Things and more things. Lots and lots and more things. We get rid of old things to make way for the new things. We drive ourselves crazy trying to find a little something, the perfect something, the thing on someone’s list. We buy things just to have something to give. We go mad and rack up the credit card so we can hand over something to prove no, no, it’s not the thing, it’s the thought behind the thing.
Every year the ante gets upped, the price limit rises, the stress and the search go on. And we buy more things.
Every year I tell myself I won’t buy into it. Every year I fail.
When is the last time you were excited to watch someone open a gift you bought for them?When is the last time you bought a gift you were truly excited to give? What percentage of gifts you buy each year fall into that category?
I’m not talking about the thrill of going to bed on Christmas Eve, of waking up and hoping hoping hoping that a Cabbage Patch Kid will be there in the morning–that’s a bit of childhood magic. I’m not talking about the childhood magic. I’m talking about all the rest.
We go out and buy things for people who don’t need things and they go out and buy us things we don’t need. We make sure we spend the right amount of money–not too much, not too little, and half the time we include a gift receipt just in case they need to return the thing to buy another thing. We buy gift cards for one amount and receive one in the same amount back. It leaves me scratching my head.
When I was a kid, gifts were strictly a birthday and Christmas thing. Nowadays, my own kids seem to get new stuff all the time. When I was just setting out on my own and had no money, I appreciated the gifts I received. I used to ask for shampoo and soap and tampons and all the stupid toiletries which cost huge sums of money when you don’t have huge sums of money to spend. When my husband and I first got together it was exciting to get to know each other through the gifts we chose for one another.
But we’re older now. Our disposable income is higher. Our needs are different. Our wants are more nuanced.
There is no real need behind our gifts. No real desire. When they are expected to be exchanged, often there’s no excitement behind buying and receiving gifts.
Sometimes during the year I’ll come across a little something I think someone in my life will enjoy or find useful, maybe just get a chuckle out of. A book of gnome crafts or a replacement pen light for the one I mistakenly threw away. If I am able, I buy it. A little unexpected something when you’re not expecting it. Those things seem nicer to me than the obligation of buying something at a prescribed time.
Maybe it’s just me.
Is it just me?
The things on my Christmas list this year are things that you can’t find on sale, can’t find on the clearance rack at the store or during an Amazon Black Friday deal. (Unless Amazon has started doing micro-dermabrasion).
What do I want for Christmas?
I want to finish the final draft of my novel.
I want to start the next one.
I want my family, this side and that side and the other, to sit down on Christmas day and eat, drink and be merry. I want them to enjoy the day and appreciate being together, more than what is or isn’t on the table or is or isn’t under the tree.
I want my kids to hug me at the school gate for another day, another month, another year, another forever.
I want my husband to kiss me like there’s always a sprig of mistletoe above my head.
But most of all I want the folks I love to understand that the things I want, the things I need, they are not obligatory or purchasable. They’re not things you need to go out to buy or wrap. Those are just things.
The best thing I could get for Christmas is the acknowledgment that I’ve got everything I need right here. The rest of it?