Gifts are the most fun and the most fraught devices in the American Christmas season which begins the day after Labor Day with the first sighting of the little drummer boy and ends with the breaking of New Year’s resolution at about 12:01 AM New Year’s Day.
Let me digress for a rant here about New Year’s resolutions being almost as stupid as that business of the president pardoning a turkey at Thanksgiving. Seriously, does anyone else think that is about the most moronic thing anyone ever dreamed up? Think about it: pardoning a turkey. A turkey. Pardoning. What the hell is that about? I grind my teeth every Thanksgiving over it but I don’t want to spend a whole post on it when it’s beneath my dignity to even mention it.
Ok, so New Year’s resolutions are stupid. Every day is a new beginning. Every holiday is a mile marker where we can let go of what’s no longer serving us, and make room for something new. The whole pagan calendar is based on that. The Wheel of the Year: It’s about the seasons. Build an altar and move on.
So I have a little—or a lot of—venom to spew in regards the holidays we have just come through. But I want to send up a gentle and fragrant spray for gifts. I love thinking about them, choosing them, making them, wrapping them, getting them, opening them. It’s the child in me, partly, and the thrill of being surprised. And it’s partly Machiavellian machinations which I am no further above than I am my obsession about the stupidity of the president pardoning a turkey.
Gifts are about power. Not necessarily about power over others. They are about power over and the dance around the recalcitrant characters with uncontrollable motives who populate my mind. This would be a worthwhile idea to explore in a blog. Maybe next year. Or at my birthday. I want to write something lighthearted for this last day of 2012.
My friend Lucy and I have worked out a great little system where we just tell each other what we want. I give her a little list complete with labels (Laphroaig, Fiber Gallery) and she does the same only she gives me more scope: “I love the things you knit or paint or make with chocolate and liquor.”
Last year I said, “OK, I know exactly what I’ll make for you.”
“I like pink,” she added.
I found some bright pink, variegated wool and knitted a cravat scarf to which I added a polished wooden button with rounds like an old tree trunk, one of them matching one of the pinks in the scarf. Lucy opened her Christmas present and said, “Oh. . . what a cool button.”
A week went by. “You didn’t like the scarf, “I said.
“It’s more pink than I was thinking,” she said. “But I love the button.”
“Ok, look, would you go up to the yarn store and buy the color you like and I’ll make you another one.”
“And could it be a bit longer?”
“I want to give something you actually want,” I said “Not something you put in a drawer.”
“I’ll see if my daughter will wear the pink one,” she offered.
“Go to the yarn store,” I said.
A month went by.
I knew she wasn’t going to go to the yarn store. So I had several of my paintings made into cards and gave them to Lucy.
“Oh, these are wonderful! This is my Christmas present!” she said.
A year went by.
Lucy gave the pink scarf back to me this Christmas with the report that her daughter had looked at it and said “What a cool button.”
I’ve been wearing the scarf. I love its pinkness.
Then there’s Nina (rhymes with Dinah). Typically Nina and I don’t exchange Christmas gifts. It’s one of our many endearing traditions. Nina likes to buy gifts for people when she sees something that strikes her as a good gift for someone in particular. She buys it and gives it. This Christmas just happened to coincide with a gift she thought I would like. Such is her sense of the momentousness of gift giving, she made a special trip to my house with said gift even though we see each other several times a week. It was a book she just knew I would like. The last book Nina just knew I would like was okay. I liked it about as much as Lucy liked the pink scarf with the cool button.
Nina came with the gift and a lively story of her day of shopping which turned out to have a salt and pepper theme. She described in detail a salt and pepper shaker and a salt and pepper grinder she had found.
“I need a salt and pepper grinder,” I commented. “I keep breaking those self-grinders from Trader Joes. I have boxes of coarse salt.
“You know you can buy ground salt and pepper.”
“Yeah, yeah. Doesn’t help me now.”
A week passed.
Nina called. “I am such a Christmas nitwit,” she said. “I gave you the wrong gift.”
“Does this mean I get the salt and pepper shaker?” I asked.
“Ha ha. No, I gave you the same book I gave you two years ago—the one you didn’t like all that much.”
“I never said I didn’t like it,” I protested.
“You never said you did. Anyway I’m coming over.”
The exchange was made.
So here’s where things stand now: The book Nina gave me is Sherman Alexie’s latest book Face and I love it. Lucy swooped in and intercepted my credit card for some expensive face serum at a holiday bazaar. She wrapped it up and gave it to me for Christmas. Though there’s no particular story I want to tell about them, Joan, my friend with the theological chops, made me the cast of characters from Three Bags Full, a sheep detective story by Leonie Swann. Here they are trying to solve the mystery of the gorgeous glass ball given to me by Chris, the unclassifiable.
Gifts are also about love.