Monday, December 26, 2011

And Now, For Something Completely Different

This is going to be an awkward post. I state that here at the beginning as a warning.

It's been a weird year. A bountiful year and yet, one of loss. I don't intend to dwell on either but it's there, and altogether, it leaves me sensing that we live this life spinning wheels and stressing and unmindful of blessings.

To say that the age of 52, I have 'everything' is not to brag but to be humbled into submission. There is not a single thing in the world I am of need. I have a warm bed, a pantry with food, my health to sustain me, a huge family I adore and friends I don't deserve. I am surrounded by things that I have accumulated and hauled around the world as we moved locations to this one and I love and cherish every one of them. My problem is now this:

I can't remember where some of them came from.

There was a time when I could tell you the moment I received something, who it came from and what year it was. I could probably even tell you what song was no. 1 that week on the radio and what I had for breakfast that morning.

That person is gone. I can't remember! And I find this upsetting. Now, you might take the position, "If you can't remember, it probably doesn't mean anything to you. Throw it or give it away!"

But you would be wrong. Terribly, terribly wrong. My take is, 'Someone thought enough about me to give me this (I don't remember buying it myself so it had to come into the house somehow) and now I don't have the decency to remember who!' and it plagues me. It just eats at me!

So I keep all the mysteries around as reminders of that which I can't remember but it does clutter up both my living space and brain. Neither of these is a good thing and I started this year to undo some of this.

No, I didn't give or toss these things away. I put the breaks on receiving any more of them. I have told my friends and family that I will no longer receive or exchange gifts *unless 1.) it was consumable and, preferably, that we share it together or 2.) an experience. Surely, I can remember an experience!!!

I clearly didn't get the message out quickly enough to everyone (because there were a few things under the tree this year for me) but for the most part, this has been the most pleasant, stress-free Christmas since I was a child.

What made the difference? I was given time.

We are all allotted the same amount of time, right? to allocate to the things we think and believe are important. At this time of year especially, I usually spend a great deal of time shopping and making and baking and wrapping and mailing and worrying that what I gave is the right or appropriate or wanted thing because I think or thought that was important. And, it is important. I am not saying it is not! On the contrary, I approach gift-giving (and don't you just deplore that new term: gifting!?) very seriously and try to give the right thing. and to get it there ON TIME! This is very stressful!

This year, I did something completely different. I simplified Christmas down to size.

1. A few weeks ago, we anonymously adopted a family and helped them this Christmas.

2. I mailed my niece and nephew a small box because I think Christmas is special for kids. It certainly was for me. (We adults need very little that we don't already have and usually get what we want for ourselves during the year. Kids get what they need all year long but don't have the means to get what they want so easily. We adults bribe them by being good all year! So kids stay on my list)

3. Borgasmord was our annual blast and we got to see friends for an evening last week.

4. My girls were here together yesterday morning and we made Christmas dinner together as a family:

John smoked his turkey to perfection

We roasted rutabagas and carrots from the garden. What a blessing!!!!
and played a GardenScrabble board game (a gift) as we ate the goose* and argued over words. It's our job. It's what we do.

Somewhere in this magnificent world, two families were given chickens and lambs to enrich their lives as a gift in John's name from his mother. Isn't that AWESOME!!!!!???? And all the wrinkled wrappings fit in one small box to end up in a landfill while five cats snoozed in the background.

It really doesn't get much sweeter than this.

This year, I purposefully stepped off that streetcar, to be a human being instead of a human doing. Not completely. But mostly.

So from the deepest part of my heart, I want to thank most of you for (almost) nothing! It was the best gift you could've given me. And Meredith, if you are reading this, the game is FUN! Thank you! I filed it under "an experience".

*the goose. Well, I cooked it according to Jacques Pepin and while it was good, and not greasy at all, it was not as tender as John's smoked turkey. It's a fussy bird and now I know why it might have fallen out of favor with cooks over the years. That and it doesn't feed more than a small gathering for all that effort. I can see clearly that the turkey is a better option, regardless how it is cooked. Today, the goose remains go into a gumbo pot. We have guests coming to share experiences.


Ann Marie said...

An excellent idea! My husband and I stopped exchanging gifts with family and friends years ago. We didn't need anything. They didn't need anything. We all have that much more time and less stress not having to worry about the perfect presents for a whole bunch of people. Now, if I see something that I think someone would really like, I might buy it for them. I do this with my nieces a lot. But I don't wait for Christmas or birthdays to give it to them. I send them that thing at the time I buy it (or make it) to let them know I was thinking of them. So far, no one has complained! And I don't have a house full of stuff just because a certain day on the calendar arrived and someone felt obligated to give me a gift to mark it.

Cats and Quilts said...


I love Christmastime!

I love the warmth and the food and coming together with friends and cookies. I love the look of everything under a candle-glow and a lit-up Christmas tree. (not a holiday tree, either!)

I love the decorations and darkness of winter. It is such a snug brief moment that i know is already leaving us once Dec 22 rolls over and before we know it, Spring is here and the trees fill out and the Earth heats up under the sun.

I love the hymns and carols and multiple voices and thoughts of snow.

I don't like the expectation that "Christmas" has come to represent.

The surprise of it all went out with the advent of the dreaded "Christmas List" .

So call me crazy. In fact, from here on out, I am toying with an idea of giving people I love things I have in the house. Things I love. Things I cannot take with me when I go.

Cats and Quilts said...

Oh And Ann Marie!!!