A Belligerent’s Guide to Christmas
Last week, during the creation of Land of a 1,000 Night Lights, el capitan de nightluz himself asked me for a Christmas list. Normally that is a request I graciously blow off.
In the words of a friend who was asked by me once for a similar cheat sheet, “That’s [gift buying] is your responsibility, not mine.”
As I get older I’m finding that providing a little guidance can go a long way in preventing me from receiving another incense burner shaped as a wizard smoking a pipe. Or a giant grim reaper statue.
So I give my father a list, and he responds by smacking me in the face for the favor! “I think we’re [him and his wife] just gonna give cash this year.”
Now one of my cousins feels this is the perfect solution. “I don’t ever know what to get you,” he adds, “so everyone gets a gift card.”
I let him slide with this, solely because such action is a well-known habit of his. He’s not breaking new ground here. My father, on the other hand, had asked me for a list prior, and then, without warning, changed his mind. Which is practically one step away from taking one’s presents back.
(It was also, it should be added, responsible for me getting the most depressing voice mail from my sister Christmas morning. The first Christmas since our mother’s death that my father chose to opt out of.)
My girlfriend also feels cash is an acceptable gift. Though I suspect if I gave her a hundred bucks in place of a present for any holiday, I’d be in for it. Not to mention she had been unemployed for the months leading up to Christmas, so any access to self-determination, no matter how small, appears to be a huge victory.
Buying presents is the one due you have to pay for having family and friends. The act shows that you do think about them, even if it’s only for one, possibly two, months out of the year.
If you don’t know a friend well enough to do this, then perhaps you really don’t need to be buying them a gift in the first place. If you don’t know a family member well enough to do this… perhaps you should pick up the phone from time to time.
Frankly I’m quite liberal (and gracious) towards any gifts I get. Close friends know they can give me nearly anything and I’ll use it. Or at least appreciate it. If nothing more, it’ll give me a tiny glimpse into how you see me in your mind. What associations I carry for you.
When you give me money my innate responsibility starts shining through. Rent!, I’ll think, or Oil changes! All the things or services I don’t necessarily want to associate with Christ’s birth-inspired potluck. He gave his life for consumerism, and we should respect that.
Forgive them Father, fore they need sales.
My grandmother used to buy me groceries whenever I visited her while in college. Often, she’d also slip me some cash, with the express instruction, “Do not use this to buy food!” She knew my first instinct would be to use it towards leading a “normal” existence. Maybe starve a little less, maybe wash the clothes a little more. Those types of things. Hell, I’m pretty positive she knew me well enough to know I was lying to her whenever I’d tell her that I’d follow her instructions. One can’t exactly turn off responsibility after all.
My Christmas lists, as infrequent as they are, always contain items I’ve wanted all year, but not desired enough to actually buy. If it’s something that I really wanted, I’d have concocted a way to acquire it already. (Usually involving eating weeks of ramen and peanut butter sandwiches.)
I mean, what’s the point in driving one and a half, two hours home only to receive an order to do more work when I arrive?