Friday, November 28, 2008


So it begins: the official Christmas shopping season. (Lest you think I’m ignoring the other holidays like Hanukkah and Kwanzaa and any other festival that falls between now and January 1, I’m using “Christmas” as the generic term and not preferring that one over the others. Bite me, Bill O’Reilly.)

Actually, the shopping season has been going on since the middle of September when I got my first catalogue from Smith & Hawken or some such; I just didn’t notice it among the rest of the campaign literature that was pouring into my mailbox. I piled them on the dining room table until I could make a big enough bundle to stick in the recycling tub and braced for more after the election was over.

Our family has a long tradition of giving gifts to each other, but it’s getting to the point where it’s becoming more a chore than a true gift, and so my older brother and his wife suggested that maybe it was time for us to all take a deep breath and think beyond the wrapping, the packaging, the search through the desk for the slips of paper with updated addresses, remembering who likes what, who doesn’t eat something else, and all the little things that come when you give a material present. They sent out an e-mail to the family suggesting — just suggesting — that instead of the boxes and stuffing, we give each other something more meaningful: time with each other and sharing our connections. Give a gift if you like, but don’t feel the pressure to have to give something that comes in a box or in a stocking or is redeemable on line.

This is not the first time we’ve done this. Last year in lieu of presents my parents donated to all of our favorite charities or foundations. And it felt very good. It was, I hope, the beginning of a tradition, and something — especially in this time of economic shit hitting the fan — that will help others who really need it.

But it’s also hard to let go of the old habits, so I know that I will be out there doing some shopping… or more likely, sitting here at the computer, credit card at the ready, doing shopping without having to remember where I parked.