When I was a kid they were trying to add to the collection of songs the radios could play and some pretty lame tunes survived the cut. One is downright creepy and cold with sound effects of a horse and sleigh like an Addams Family ghost horse. Then there was “Grandma got run over by a reindeer” and a bunch of dumb ditties like jingle bell rock. ew. And every year they play the john lennon one that I never finish which starts with, “and so this is christmas” and his “Imagine”, which makes me knock over chairs and old ladies to get to the radio to turn it off. Then there is blessed silence.
The “Imagine” song is particularly unwanted because it is essentially anti Christ all dressed up frilly. You can like it. We’ll still be friends.
So a few decades ago I started avoiding most of the winter frenzy. I actually like the pretty trappings of the season, but enjoy the peace of side stepping the madness even more. If others in my house like all the holiday stuff, there can be all the holiday that they want to manage and I will play along and enjoy it right up to where I draw the line which is the indulgence in stress inducing aspects that torture so many people during the lead up to Christmas (or birthdays, anniversaries, gatherings, etc.). If they stress over creating the magic I want left out of that indulgence. I also only allot a fixed portion of time and resources for my participation and won’t do more.
My solution has been to step back. I love giving gifts. So I do it throughout the year. I never liked the idea that the receiver of a gift could not know for sure whether I was thinking of them or they were a check off on a list. Besides, I am a terrible wrapper.
In past years, I’ve simplified it even further by only getting gifts for grand children. When the scope is small, those who aren’t on the list can’t be offended because they realize that the list didn’t include them strictly by it’s criteria and not of any failing on their part to win my love and affection. You are either a grand child or you are not. This year, I scaled back even further and just sent group gifts to the kids with children. Nothing for individuals as in prior years. Magnetic letters to one family. Magnets to another. Even more magnetic letters and numbers to yet another family (I give things I’d love to have myself) One poor family got nothing yet because I couldn’t decide what else they’d enjoy after learning that the thing I wanted to send they already owned!
Oh no, I’m experiencing guilt. Dang me. But that’s how I roll with this, if I can’t come up with a good idea then I wait till I do. I resist giving a gift just to satisfy that I ‘ought to’. It’s out of a desire to do it that I send. But it’s also a matter of time and availablilty. I finally got a Christmas card to someone who hadn’t received one for years because I either didn’t have the address or ran out of stamps and took too long to remedy either situation. The next year I crossed off the year on the card and added another thought if appropriate. When I finally hand delivered the card now that she’s living a few miles away, she was thrilled. “I thought you didn’t even care all those years!” she told me. No, I just lacked a stamp or an address. Sometimes I lacked a phone number. Yes, it’s lazy on my part. Duly acknowledged.
The songs they play on the radio, all those silly filler songs that have become a part of the holiday season, remind me of the plastic side of the holiday. The side that supports the silly extremes where debt must be incurred and endless measures employed to reach out to everyone even if it means giving them a stolen hubcap…I mean a recycled hubcap cleaverly presented as a car lovers wok or a salad lover’s specialty bowl. Ultimately, there are limits. Someone is going to get left out. The unseen tears of realization that your beloved hamster didn’t even make the cut, even though I gave presents to the nieghbors cat even though they weren’t supposed to tell anyone will taint the joy. I avoid the holiday gatherings specifically to avoid facing people I didn’t favor with cars, dental appliances, or tube socks. I don’t want to mingle with a heterogenous group, some of whom I may have favored with lake front property (on a lark and because I could – you know, like people do), while others didn’t even get a card or crisco even though I know they fry chicken all the time. What if one thanks me out loud while the others swallow hard, realizing they didn’t get crisco. They didn’t even get a card. And yet here I am talking to them as if they mattered. Scum that I am. Disingenous hater that I secretly must be!
Others are fine until they hear me talking about the brake flaring tool I bought for the rejuvenation of the Lotus. The Lotus that is the fourth car in my stable. Which I must love more than them because what they got was nothing even though I had the means to get someting for a machine. Geeze.
If I avoid all the parties I avoid grief. I avoid causing grief, in particular.
If I keep a narrow scope of gift giving, I presumably avoid the trap of never giving enough or leaving people out. In fact, it’s a relief to some because they don’t have to feel obligated. “You know he gave us that cucumber peeler last year and the cat food with the high ash content the year before, so we have to get him something. SOMETHING. And every year he brings a can of corn to our pot luck. But what do we get him? Everything he really likes takes time and money. How bout we get him a set of footies for his cat”, as opposed to “don’t worry about that with him. He didn’t get us a thing last year!”
Or I can do what I now do, which is almost nothing during the holidays.
There are people I love more than life. Even they only sporadically get holiday gifts. More likely, so that others don’t suffer the unsettling discovery of uneven gifting, I’ll just happen across something I think would please them and hand it off without calling it what it is.