Matt and I agreed not to exchange presents this year because we bought a new television. And then he bought me little things anyway. It was nice of him but it brought back memories of my mother and how she slowly changed Christmas over the years.
When we were kids she bought lots of presents and we decorated the house with fake holy, a tree, lots of lights and Christmas cards from family and friends taped to the pantry door. As we got older, she seemed to lose interest. By the time I was in high school, and she was about the age I am now, she really stopped caring. If we were going to decorate and have a tree I had to make it happen because I was the only one still living at home. My dad not really participate at all so he was no help.
As for presents, she would hand me money and say go buy gifts and make sure you get something for yourself. I went shopping and then wrapped all the gifts, including my own. Hey, why not? She insisted she really had everything she needed and she did not want presents. We bought them for her anyway, usually clothes we thought she needed and maybe a knick knack. She tried to be excited but more than anything she just fussed about how nothing fit and she didn’t need that new blouse or sweater anyway. What she had was fine.
As I was facing Christmas this year, I began to think that I might be arriving where my mother was. First, like my mom, I have come to the point that I just don’t need anything. One hundred and fourteen catalogs arrived in my mailbox in one week, selling all sorts of trinkets and googaws. As I leafed through them, all I could think was–have it, have it, have it, don’t need it, don’t need it, don’t need it. There is no longer the allure of objects, or jewelry, or anything else they are selling. If I am interested in something, usually having to do with cooking I just buy it for myself.(I bought cheesemaking kits this year.)
Then there are the traditions of Christmas. There was an article in the paper recently written by some young mother who confessed that she and her friends were killing themselves trying to be everything at Christmas–baking cookies, decorating, buying presents, sending cards and trying to keep up generations of traditions. They felt that if they did not do all of those things, somehow their kids would suffer and where were the spouses? I just thought, man, you need to relax! Stick to the priorities. Figure out what is worth doing and forget the rest. All that stuff does not bring true meaning to Christmas anymore than a giant diamond wedding ring ensures a good marriage.
I think that I have sorted through everything that is important to me and have concluded that I like the tree and outdoor lights. That is really what matters to me. So I have reduced my decorating inside to putting up a tree. I have an entire collections of Santas and snow men that I used to display. Now I don’t take the trouble. It just disrupts my house, it takes time to put them up and take them down and in the end, what difference does it make? Does it make Christmas any more special? Honestly, I don’t think so. I think that for my mom, it was not the decorating that was important, or even the gifts. She wanted us to be at home making noise and laughing. That was what mattered to her. The rest was just piffle.
Is it nice to give presents? Of course. And really, isn’t giving so much better than getting? That sure is how I feel. But somehow Matt and I carry on without exchanging gifts. Some years we do buy presents for each other, it depends on how we feel. When I am inspired I might buy presents for my family, or even strangers through organizations that set up gift giving for those in need. I have no set plan. Mostly, I prefer that we just enjoy each other with some good food, some good wine and lots and lots of talking and laughing with people we love.