Finding balance in the second half of life

Posts Tagged ‘gift-giving’

Ask and You Shall Receive?

In Family on November 29, 2010 at 5:23 pm

The Unclutterer’s recent post on giving gifts that are wanted or needed was timely–of course. We’ve been brainstorming about Christmas gifts for a while now, to come up with ideas we can make and afford. The Unclutterer recommends asking recipients what they want or need, though, and that’s a tender spot in our negotiation of the season.

My husband grew up on Christmas lists. The first few holidays we celebrated together, I misjudged the list dynamic: I assumed we were supplying ideas, thought-starters; when the holiday came, it looked like we had been placing an order.

If we made a list as kids, it was in the form of a letter to Santa, from which we might receive one or two items. We might give hints–leaving catalogs open to certain pages, even tearing out pictures. But we understood that there was a certain mystery and suspense to gift-receiving, and gift-giving required some imagination.

That’s still my orientation, although it’s sorely tested these days by nieces and nephews living far away and reaching those awkward teenage years. It seems to me it makes the gifts more special, less like an entitlement or a mail order delivery. It’s an intersection between the giver and the recipient. And the gifts that hit the mark–like the handknit black fingerless gloves for my niece–are a special unanticipated joy for both of us.

–Lois Maassen

Giving Retailers the Brush-Off

In Fulfillment on November 25, 2010 at 10:00 am

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Beyond the purpose of the day–looking at what we have instead of at all the things our culture constantly points out we don’t have–I love the smell of roasting root vegetables and simmering cranberry sauce, the comfort of hunkering in for the day in front of the stove first and later a fire, the easy rhythm of relatives forced to spend time together (although must they retell embarrassing stories that never should have been told in the first place?). It’s the most laidback holiday. There’s nothing else to do besides talk, eat, and watch football on mute. The Christmas season, and all the high expectations that come with it, could wait until the aptly named Black Friday.

Or at least it could until now. This year a number of major retailers are holding pre-Black Friday (euphemism for “Thanksgiving Day”) sales. Even Sears—the Norman Rockwell of retailing–will be open on Thanksgiving for the first time in its 127 years. To which I can only say, Et tu, Brutus?

I won’t be shopping on Thanksgiving or the day after. Instead, I’ll be thinking about what I’m going to make for my friend this year with whatever I can find around the house plus supplies that cost less than two dollars. It’s something we started last year, after she told me how it had been a tradition in her family (their spending cap was just ten cents). After a few false starts, I decided on making a voodoo doll. My lack of crafting skills is sadly obvious; who knew a voodoo doll could end up looking like Don King? And I blew the entire two dollars on the skull beads for the necklace.

I think my friend liked it (I know her cat did), but the truth is that the whole experience was a bigger gift to me than the voodoo doll was to her. In making that silly gift, I rediscovered the joy of giving. I remembered that it’s about thinking about the person more and the gift itself less. I learned another small way to take back the holidays.

Christine MacLean