It’s two weeks before Christmas and, as usual, I’m on my way to the Goodwill. Not to shop, but to make room in my storage space. My donation box contains an assortment of last year’s Yuletide gifts from my family—lawn lights, ski gloves, a music box, and a Twister game, to name a few. What does a middle-aged woman with bad knees and a fat husband want with a Twister game? Really. I’m trying to keep the emergency room visits to a minimum, especially now that I no longer have health insurance.
Guilt sets in as the small man in a blue smock sorts through my stuff. Some of these items were chosen with care. Such as the wok (from my brother who knows I love stir-fry) that almost set fire to my kitchen. But the basket of scented soap was a last-minute panic grab by someone who either forgot or didn’t care that perfume gives me a headache.
My niece calls while I’m collecting my receipt, and the seasonal madness starts all over.
“What do you want for Christmas this year?” she demands, high on the adrenaline of power shopping her way through a Fred Meyer half-off white sale.
“Nothing,” I say, as I do every year.
“I’m going to buy you something anyway, so you might as well give me a clue.”
“Please don’t. I would rather you gave the money to charity.”
“You’re no fun.” She hangs up and goes back to shopping; there are 20 people on her list.
Why does my family continue to buy me presents when I have asked them year after year not to? I am middle-aged, I (used to) earn a good living, and I acquired everything I need long ago. I am also making good progress in accumulating everything I want. The only things that I want—that I don’t already have—are too expensive for me. Which means they are also too expensive for my family and friends.
I do not need another crock-pot, fry-baby, or nut-cracker. (I am far too lazy to ever purchase nuts in the shell.) I do not wear fuzzy sweaters because they make my skin itch, and if a sweatshirt is red or green with any sort of reindeer or snowflakes, I’d could walk around naked with less embarrassment. And as long as I’m being a snob, I don’t eat the plastic cheese or greasy processed-meat sticks from Hickory Farms either. On the other hand, I do love chocolate—but it makes me look fat. So anyone who wraps it in irresistible pink and silver and puts my name on it doesn’t really love me.
Having run out of other options, some family members have started giving gift certificates. But seriously, what is the point of two 40-something siblings simultaneously exchanging cash at the end of December? In what way is this meaningful or logical?
At the bottom of my donation box are two ceramic Santas, three assorted-sized silver bells, and a collection of green and red candles that could torch the neighborhood if they were all lit at once. As I part with the decorations, I think: I haven’t put up a tree since my kids moved out. Does my family really think the sight of a three-inch Saint Nick in red suspenders and shorts is going to turn this Scrooge around? Hah!
On the way home, I call my niece back. “I changed my mind,” I say. “I know what I want for Christmas.”
“An indoor swimming pool. With a hot tub.”
“You’re so funny. Will you settle for a bag of York Peppermint Patties? They’re low fat.”
“Sure.” I hang up the phone. One down. Sixteen to go.
PS: If you have to/like to buy Christmas gifts—buy books!
Down the River Unto the Sea
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