Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Twas the Season (recently)

Do you know what I like about Christmas? Well, what I like about the celebration of Christmas, “apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin”? What I like about Christmas…is presents.

I like giving presents: I like sitting down around Thanksgiving time and thinking about my favorite people in the world, about how I can show them what they mean to me, pondering what they enjoy or need that I might be able to find for them. I like fibbing, finagling, and faking to discover the perfect gift, the right shirt size, the favorite color. I like making things for people—baking, painting, crocheting, or sewing. I like taking price tags off of boxes and wrapping them in festive paper (or last week’s comics, if I haven’t got any paper). I especially like it when my gifts are square or rectangular, because then I can make the package look nice without using half a roll of tape (the overuse of tape is a family trait). I like curling ribbons.

I like leaving packages on door steps or in mail boxes for the friends I don’t catch in person. I like putting the presents under the tree at home (this year at least we knew that we didn’t have a cat who would systematically go through the packages, eat the ribbon, and then give it back to us in cold, wet surprises on the carpet). I like waiting on Christmas morning while the recipient negotiates through my varying amounts of tape to unwrap what I’ve kept secret for a month. I like getting hugs in return.

And I like receiving presents—not because I want more “stuff,” not because it saves me having to buy something for myself—but because every year I’m caught off-guard by at least one gift. It wasn’t on my list, I hadn’t even thought about it, but it’s just right. It usually isn’t expensive; it’s often home-made—but it’s perfect. That kind of gift tells me that someone knows me very well, they notice me, and they care. I was caught off-guard several times this Christmas, and I was profoundly touched. I have a feeling my mother will read this post and immediately start worrying about how she’ll manage next year, but she doesn’t need to be concerned: the best thing about these “perfect gifts” is that they always happen, probably without the giver even planning it to be as special as it is. Something given from the heart and not the pocket always bears the mark of its origins.

I always hope to catch a few people off-guard myself.