On The Office, Jim & Pam exchanged Christmas gifts. Jim surprised her with a diamond bracelet (she cried), and Pam lovingly and laboriously drew him a comic book, and presented it with much hope and nervousness (he was speechless with joy). Cute? Kinda? Meh. It left me with a squirmy feeling inside.
I am actually not good at the gift thing, neither giving nor receiving. I didn't grow up in a gift giving culture. We didn't celebrate Christmas or birthdays, and taking pleasure from or putting emphasis on material possessions was most certainly frowned upon. Giving a gift is generally not on my radar screen when I think of ways to show appreciation or affection. I think there are better ways.
Receiving gifts comes with this whole dance of expectation, and ritual of responses. Maybe it's my inherent Aspieness, but I don't much like surprises, and I am not particularly astute at picking up on the more subtle social cues or acting out the required niceties. Don't get me wrong, I like pressies as much as the next guy (did I mention the 10th doctor sonic screwdriver and Tardis cookie jar sitting on my desk right now? Spoils of the HP birthday party.), but the actual receiving of the gifts often leaves me feeling awkward and embarrassed. Did I smile big enough? Say thank you with the correct tone and enthusiasm? Did the giver leave feeling that their effort was appreciated and knowing how much I value them? And sometimes I just get overwhelmed, especially at Christmas or birthdays when I am receiving multiple gifts. It all just feels like too much, and I start to think of little kids in Africa, and the camps in Haiti and the families right here in my own city who are suffering and don't have enough, and here I am like Dudley Dursley with a stack of presents so big I can't see over the top.
If the DH presented me with a diamond bracelet, I would probably throw up.
(wet blanket, I know. No one likes that person, snuffing out the festivities with a cold splash of guilt on Xmas morning.)
Pam's gift was handmade. I love the handmade gifts best of all. I feel my happiest, and like I am giving of my best when I give them, and of course, love, love, love to receive them, but not everyone gets or loves receiving the homemade stuff...so there is the suspense. I loathe the suspense. You spend hours meticulously crafting something, sweat of your brow, love in every step, and then you get the wave of panic. It's not perfect. It's actually pretty flawed. Will they like it? Will they get it? Would they rather have just had a gift certificate to Amazon?
There's also the pressure that TV shows, commercials and every flyer and billboard all contribute to. Have you gotten your loved one something spectacular this year? We see cars with giant bows on them. Jewelery galore. Electronics, vacations, big ticket, big money, must equal BIG joy items. On the other side of the coin soppy movies and commercials (still selling us stuff but more subtly), telling us that if every gift giving moment with your family this Christmas, whether the gift is big or small, boughten or made, is not as warm and fuzzy as a Coca Cola polar bear and as sentimental as a Hallmark card you have failed. Big red rubber stamp across your forehead. CHRISTMAS FAIL. Your children didn't squeal with glee as they ripped off the paper. Your wife didn't well with tears and throw herself into your arms. Grampa didn't have a tender moment of finally understanding how much he means to you, as he looked at his new sweater and pipe. FAIL. FAIL. FAIL.
I watched that show last night and had a moment of doubt. You know what I bought the DH this year? First of all, something we can afford on our modest Christmas budget. Second of all, something he wants. He knows exactly what he's getting. There's no big surprise. It is something fun. Something he wouldn't spend the money on for himself. He will open it, and feign surprise to please the boys, and give me a kiss and say thank you. He'll enjoy it, but it is not going to be some big revelation of my love for him. He won't be rendered speechless or get all verklempt. It's just a nice thing to have, nothing more. Does this mean I get the fail stamp on my forehead?
Obviously I've been ruminating about gifts and their meaning, and the whole societal culture around gift giving, and thinking hard about what I would give the DH if I could give him absolutely anything. What kind of gift would be a revelation of my love to him? And I keep coming back to exactly where I started, there are better ways to show love and appreciation than giving gifts.
Back BK (before kids), we lived in an old yellow farmhouse in the country. It had a glassed in porch on the front of the house where we left our coats, shoes etc. This was unheated. One particularly cold winter, each afternoon as I was rushing out the door to work, I could not find my boots. It was maddening. They were never where I'd left them the night before. I would scramble around the house searching and eventually locate them somewhere on the main floor, and tear off for work in a huff. I came up with a theory that it must have been the dogs (we had two), although I could never figure out how (they would've had to open the door to the porch somehow) or catch them at it. One night in quizzical frustration I shared all this with the DH, and he said, half shamefaced, half amused, "It was me. I didn't want your feet to be cold, so every morning before I go to work, I move your boots to a heat register to warm up."
And that my friends, is a gift.
A revelation of love far better than any diamond or iphone or flat screen TV. He didn't want my feet to be cold. He thought of my comfort with no prompting from a holiday or a TV commercial, and no expectation of anything in return. In that moment I felt surprised and valued, and as warm and fuzzy and sentimental as can be.
|Chocolate Spicy Love Cookie, the DH's favourite kind|
Only 14 more sleeps until Christmas! I hope your holidays are filled with gifts, filled to bursting! And that they are the kind of gifts that come "...without ribbons! [That come] without tags! [That come] without packages, boxes, or bags!" ...the kind that reveal love.