I am going to apologize in advance. This was transcribed from something I had dictated while sitting in a parking lot on 12/24/2017 and have only now just typed it out here. Still, I hope it can bring some value to you and that you can help answer my conundrum near the end.
I just had a conversation with my aunt, telling her that I didn’t get anything for my grandmother this year. I had asked my aunt what Granny needed and she said that she really didn’t need anything, but that I needed to get her SOMETHING. “She’s going to want to open something from you”. Then I told her that if there was something that she needed that I would get it for her. Granny really doesn’t drive anywhere anymore, she really doesn’t even cook much, her kids bring her lunch and dinner. She just sits in her chair at home all day watching reruns. Granny really doesn’t have any needs right now other than to spend time with people. I told my aunt that instead of getting her something that I would spend time with her and take her out for a nice dinner one day. My aunt’s response?
“But that’s what it’s about (opening presents)”.
This truly surprised me. It isn’t often in my life that I am stunned, but this was one of those times. My aunt is very religious…she avoids certain words and phrases, gets offended at certain things, is a twice-weekly (if not more) church-goer … and yet this woman is telling me that this, opening gifts, is what Christmas is about.
As I sit here in the Starbucks parking lot, I realize that something has gone truly awry. Even for someone like me who isn’t religious, I realize Christmas isn’t about opening presents.
When I think back to growing up as a small child, that is exactly what it was about. I would get literal mounds of gifts, sometimes taller than I was. I was an only child and, for 10 years, an only grandchild on one side of the family, so needless to say I got a lot of stuff. I didn’t treat a lot of it with respect as most young kids don’t. As I got older I began to feel weird about Christmas and was recently able to realize that this feeling was actually anxiety. I didn’t want all-eyes-on-me as we opened gifts; we would take turns and everyone would watch each person open gifts in turn. I didn’t want all the attention, and I would think ‘oh, did I get something from so-and-so’, the connotation being ‘did they forget about me? Did they not like me as much as XYZ?’ I also didn’t want someone to feel like I didn’t like them nor love them as much as someone else because I didn’t get them the best or most expensive gift, or that I got them fewer than last year.
None of this is sitting well with me.
A couple of days ago I was on Facebook and saw a post from someone I knew in high school and all of the gifts they had wrapped. You know…here’s the tree and present pile…with the caption being “the Christmas elf has come to wrap all of these gifts”. She posted later about ‘for those that are married, how many gifts do you give to somebody, extended family, cousins, etc?’. The photo showed a pile of gifts that was at least half the height of their Christmas tree. They were on the floor, on a couch, on a chair…a massive pile of boxes and bags all wrapped in paper and ribbon. It was enough to fall and crush someone. I have never seen a stack of gifts so high. Her post also mentioned something about money, so all of this is, in my opinion, wrong.
Now that I’m older, view things from a more minimalistic perspective, it just doesn’t sit well with me. This is NOT what the holidays were for. It was never supposed to be about this; showing how much you love someone by how much money you spend on them, and how much debt you go into to do it.
My aunt implored me to buy something small, even a lotion. “But does she need a lotion?” She says “well I don’t know, I haven’t looked to see if she needs lotion but I know she uses mine when she’s with me”. (As a note, when I went to her house on Christmas Eve and was in the bathroom, I saw several soaps on the bathroom sink and numerous towels on the shower, so I suspect she didn’t need a lotion after all). “Well, if she doesn’t need it, I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to buy her something that is going to be meaningless” to which my aunt responded “ok, if that’s what you want to do then it’s fine”.
My question to you is, when you see things in a different way…when you adopt a different lifestyle…how do you communicate to your family that you will no longer be showing your love for them with stuff, but with spending time with them instead, when your family has vastly different views than you?
For those of you reading this, I hope you have a wonderful holiday. I hope you do not drown in trash from paper, boxes, and bags.
I will see you all in the new year.