Your cynicism is showing.” My wife said with a look of amused disdain.
We were standing at the exit door of the doctor’s office. You know, when you hit middle age and you have to go in for all sorts of tests and poking and prodding? Yeah, it was one of those visits. Not a pleasant thing to go through but it is something we must all be subjugated to.
I smiled at her. She was standing between me and the door. Her smile and sarcasm were exuding off of her like so many pheromones. “Yeah, well, it’s mostly just sarcasm. After all, I don’t really hate Christmas. I just don’t like it as much as I used to.”
“Well, other people can hear you. You need to whisper.”
I turned around, there was a middle aged man sitting in a chair looking at his smart phone and a medical assistant sitting behind a counter tapping away at her computer. I turned back to my wife and mouthed a bunch of words without letting and sound escape my voice. She smiled and then laughed.
I couldn’t help myself. My sarcasm, my wit, my disdain for one particular holiday simply because I end up working on it for over four months of the year couldn’t hold me back. The season of love, forgiveness and joy, a season that in my young teenage years was filled with disappointment, sadness and loneliness that had been changed in my early twenties to become a season filled with happiness and exuberance had now become a season of work, pain, toil and unending tasks, has overtaken me.
I’m sure there is a simple mathematical equation that can explain all of this in my life. However; if I put it down here, I’m also sure it would bore the shit out of all of you. It’s not that I’ve lost my enjoyment of the holiday season. It’s that the shine of the season is now tarnished to me.
You see, if I were a chef and I spent four months of the year preparing a dinner for Easter or Thanksgiving, I’m sure I’d hate ham and turkey. Or if I were an environmentalist, I’d hate Arbor Day. Or if I were a maker of fireworks, I’d deplore the New Year and all the independence days that came with it. You see, it’s a matter of perspective to me. Take away all the twinkly lights, take away all the feel-good songs, take away all the movies, the media, the food drives and what do we have left?
I’ll tell you what we have left; aside from the mandatory over spending of middle class America, we have a consumer based hike in the National Deficit. Just kidding. But seriously folks. Don’t go out and go into debt for Christmas. It’s not worth it. Your kids wont really remember it and neither will you.
Tell you what… I’ll go over some of the best gifts I’ve ever gotten in my life if you promise not to spend more than you can afford this year. Need I say this is in no particular order? Maybe I do. So, here are my top Christmas gifts in no particular order.
1: a plastic palomino horse when I was about 6 years old. I loved that thing and I’ve no earthly idea whatever happened to it. I received it the year my dad and mom moved us out of our house on Clover Lane in Green Bay and I had many adventures with it.
2: My daisy BB gun. I had a ton of fun shooting that thing at all sorts of targets. Windows of my mean neighbor’s house. Paper targets. Sides of garages and the occasional bird, rabbit and squirrel. (Also, my friends when we got into BB gun fights. Even though they had the Crossman pump action I still managed to peg them with my trusty Daisy.)
3: My unicycle that I never thought my mother or her fiancé felt I needed. I learned a lot from trying to ride that blasted thing. Especially balance. And, I feel that most of the kids in the neighborhood who failed at riding it looked up to me because I could ride it.
4: My K2 skii’s. I love skiing. I wish I could do it now. But, since I’m a middle aged man with bad knees and a back that hasn’t seen a day where it didn’t decide to cause me pain or suffering in one form or another, I doubt I’ll ever spend anytime barreling headlong down the side of a mountain with no worries or concerns in my life. It is an invigorating feeling. Being so close to the edge of the uncontrollable. Maybe that is why I ride a motorcycle now.
5: My quilts and wall hangings. I have four. All hand made by people that care about me for some unknown reason. They say they love me and think I’m worthy of all the time, energy and effort they spend on creating things out of almost nothing. The love that was used in making them fills my heart and head with unfathomable joy, pride and respect.
6: The cards. I’d like to pick one out in particular but I can’t. You see, back in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, scrapbooking was all the rage and my family took to it like a fish to water. They made all these crazy cards and sent them to me. I saved every one of them. They are sitting in a drawer next to my bed. I have been known on very private and lonely occasions to take them out and read them. No matter how bad I feel, they seem to cheer me up and pull me away from the edge I’m straddling.
7: My rainbow towel. It’s over twenty years old now and I still use it. Not on a daily basis. No. I can’t. Simply because it is threadbare and almost ready for the trash bin. It was something I once saw in a movie, made an offhand comment about and then, it showed up as a present on Christmas day. I love it and I always will. It not only reminds me of the diversity of life but how a simple comment can cause someone to go on the hunt for something that was damn near impossible to find in a life before the internet and e-commerce.
8: The Atari 2600. This home video game brought more hours of enjoyment to me and my two step brothers at a time when our lives were filled with questions, concerns and a very real uncertainty of future in our lives. We didn’t have a lot of games but the ones we had, we played the shit out of.
9: The Lionel Santa Fe train set. It wasn’t until about 6 or maybe 7 years ago that I was told the history of that train set and the impact it made on my family. But, as a young boy who was fascinated by all things mechanical, it was a great present. It helped me and my father bond by building a train layout in our basement and it helped me and my mother become closer after years of separation. And, once I found out the provenance of the train set, well, it just endeared the gift even more to me.
10: The love of my family. I can’t go through my yearly struggles and tasks and not feel as if during these particular weeks that they don’t struggle and stress with me. I know how hard I work to help them and I know it is reciprocated by them to me. They don’t say it. They don’t talk about it. They don’t even complain about my grumpiness, my doom and gloom attitude or even my constant complaining of how terrible my body is and how it’s breaking down on me. They just keep doing whatever they can within their power to make sure I’m taken care of and my needs are met so I can take care of them. (This is not a gift you can wrap. This is not a gift that is given once a year. No, this is a gift that is given every day. And that is something that no one can ever truly put a value upon.)
So, in short, I value the intangible. The gifts of love and affection that can only be given with love and affection and a small amount of money. I value time and connection. Not the latest and greatest. Just the vapors of a life with the people that mean more to me than the world can tangibly offer.