A feel­ing, not a thing

Maryland Independent - - Classified - Twit­ter: @right­meg

Re­mem­ber when I was de­ter­mined to be done Christ­mas shop­ping by Hal­loween? That was cute. As usual, we’re just a few weeks from the big day and I’m left star­ing at the empty spa­ces in my hol­i­day spread­sheet where pur­chased gifts should be. I’ve cov­ered most of our fam­ily and friends, but close rel­a­tives — like, say, my hus­band — are still look­ing sparse.

That wasn’t the plan, cer- tainly. I’ve been mak­ing notes when­ever Spencer men­tioned a new movie, T-shirt or tchotchke he liked, but the man is tough to shop for. His hob­bies — am­a­teur ra­dio; wood­work- ing — are sub­jects I know noth­ing about, and he has count­less tools and ac­cou­trements al­ready. I’d have no way of know­ing what he wants or needs with­out ask­ing, and where’s the fun in that?

This stands in stark con- trast to pre­vi­ous col­umns I’ve writ­ten about how much I ap­pre­ci­ate regis- tries, I know. To some ex- tent, I do like sug­ges­tions on what to gift some­one. As with wed­dings and baby show­ers, I’d much rather buy what you’ll be ex­cited to re­ceive rather than blow cash on a fes­tive tin of sea­soned peanuts (you can’t eat) or a book (you read years ago).

Didn’t we all make wish lists for Santa Claus? As a kid, my sis­ter and I would pluck the toy cat­a­logues out of the mail and do­gear pages with re­quests for the big guy. Need­less to say, the whole thing was one gi­ant dog-ear. My par­ents would have us jot down “a few” toys, and that list was shared via our an­nual let­ter to the North Pole. (In later years, we ac­tu­ally faxed Santa; Tim- othy, his head elf, re­spond- ed with il­lus­tra­tions.)

Shar­ing gift ideas is just the adult ver­sion of fax- ing Ti­mothy, you know? As we’re all watch­ing our funds, I hate to think of any­one spend­ing money un­nec­es­sar­ily. I un­der- stand now why some folks try to en­force a “no gifts” rule for spe­cial oc- ca­sions — bet­ter that you sock that cash away than blow it on a sweater set. We don’t nec­es­sar­ily need the sweater, but ev­ery­one could use the sav­ings.

I guess I’m bor­ing like that.

The fact is, shop­ping is all about get­ting in and get­ting out th­ese days. Most (or all?) of what I buy is dull-but-nec­es­sary stuff for the house­hold or lit­tle treats for Oliver. When I do buy some­thing strictly for me, it’s usu­ally caf­feinated. And quickly con­sumed.

But ev­ery­one wants to treat their loved ones at the hol­i­days — though that doesn’t have to mean fill­ing the bot­tom of the Christ­mas tree with flatscreen TVs and iPhones. Smaller, sen­ti­men­tal gifts mean more as we get older . . . and that’s what I strive to gift now. It just takes time. Have you tried be­ing sen­ti­men­tal on a dead­line? It’s stress­ful. Be­cause I do most of my shop­ping on­line, items must be or- dered well in ad­vance — mean­ing this week­end is re­ally my last shot to ac- tu­ally re­ceive presents by Dec. 25. I have a few hold­outs that I just don’t have bril­liant ideas for, and the clock is tick­ing. Lit­er­ally.

So what do you give some­one who has ev­ery- thing? Cheesy as it is, I think you give your time. We’ll be spend­ing Christ­mas Day with Spencer’s par­ents, grand­par­ents and ex­tended crew this year — a first in our mar­ried life. It’s a long trip and I’m sad about be­ing away from my own fam­ily, but I rec­og­nize how dif­fi­cult it is for my in­laws to be away from their son and grand­son, par­tic- ularly in De­cem­ber. It’ll be strange to wake up in a guest room on Dec. 25, but hey — win­ters in New York mean less dream­ing: we’re all but guar­an­teed a white Christ­mas.

I’m so ex­cited to see Oliver’s lit­tle face after Santa’s visit, and that mo­ment won’t be im­pacted by our zip code. While he’s still too young to re­ally “get” hol­i­days, he is fas­ci­nated by all the glitz of the sea­son (and has been do­ing bet­ter with not strip­ping our tree of its or­na­ments, thank­fully). Oliver will be silly, adorable and giddy — so we’ll be happy, too. Our rel­a­tives will be de­lighted to have us there. Spend­ing time with fam­ily — the one we’re born into and the one we cre­ate — is def­i­nitely what puts the an­gel atop the tree, you know?

So I re­turn to my gift spread­sheet: a dull doc­u­ment in which I’ve noted all our hol­i­day-re­lated pur­chases so far. The pres­sure, the strug­gle to be creative, the ris­ing costs of it all — it’s enough to suck the soul right out of Christ­mas. But only if you let it. Yes, I have loose ends to tie up — lit­er­ally and metaphor­i­cally. But we’re in the fi­nal stretch. And if ev­ery- thing isn’t “per­fect,” well . . . what’s per­fect, any­way?

To me, per­fect is hot choco­late and “Home Alone” and my son col- laps­ing in my lap, his fa­vorite blan­ket draped around him like a cape. It’s dim­ming the liv­ing room lights so only the tree casts a glow, my mom’s hol­i­day lasagna and mother-in­law’s snowflake cook­ies. It’s Spencer and I pour­ing milk and gath­er­ing treats to leave Santa on Oliver’s be­half, and our de­light at his de­light.

Christ­mas is a feel­ing, not a thing.

I’d do well to re­mem­ber that, too.

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