xmas wishes

why i’m not so good around christmas time

Last night I asked Eric when he wanted to go Christmas shopping with me. He responded with a laugh that would make Dr. Evil jealous. I guess it’s a little early to start shopping. Mostly because we don’t have the spare cash right now. We have to make the final payments on our trip for January and that is sort of eating up this month’s budget. I don’t even know what I’m going to get everyone this year. I’m absolutely terrible about gifts.

I inherited it from my mother.

There’s a story about my mother’s first Christmas with my father, where she knew that he liked Brut cologne, so she went to the store and bought their biggest bottle. That Christmas when he opened it up, he passed it around to all of his family to smell. One by one they’d stick their noses in the bottle and come up with their eyes tearing. Everyone I guess tried to be polite about it, but they thought the cologne smelled god-awful. When the bottle finally got back to my mother and she took a sniff, she learned that the bottle was filled with ammonia. The store had sold her the display, and not the cologne.

I try every year to find something that says, “This is more than just a gift. The quality and the creativity of this gift means that I know you, I know you better than this other person, and this gift is a reminder of the friendship that you and I have.” Often times I end up getting the gift that says, “I sort of don’t have any money, but you know, you’re on my list and all, so here.”

I just want to give gifts that make people surprised and touched and teary-eyed…

Oh, who am I kidding? No one is easy to shop for. There was a time when I was the easiest person to shop for. “Just give her a Pooh or a Tigger, and she’ll hug it and hug you and you’ll feel like the best grandparent in the world.”

My father is the hardest to shop for.

Last year I decided that I was just going to look for something for my dad. Don’t plan it, don’t freak out. Just find something. Here’s what you think of when you think about my dad:

likes to cook steak.
likes to read about Hitler.
likes the History Channel and the Food Channel.It reads like a logic puzzle from geometry class, I know. So, that’s what I have to choose from. Now, I don’t know what makes a good Hitler book and what makes a bad Hitler book, and two years ago I guess I got a bad Hitler book because that book is still in its same place in the living room without so much as a wrinkle in its spine.

So I went to the “dad store” or the gadget store, depending on how you look at it, and I found a barbeque set that I thought Dad would love. It comes in a case and it has tools for cooking and cleaning on his outside grill, which he does every week during the summer. So I bought it, and brought it home. I called my mother to tell her what I got and she told me that he’d hate it. She said to take it back and get something else. She told me something that he wanted… a couple of video tapes. So I went back to the mall, returned the grill stuff and went to the video store. One of the videos was no longer in print. The others were not in stock, so I had to order them. So Christmas day when Dad opened his gifts from me he got two promissory notes that his videos were on their way. I was disappointed that he didn’t have anything tangible to hold and say, “My daughter loves me.” So I told him about the barbeque set.

“Oh, I would have hated that.”

Mom’s always right, isn’t she?

So now I sit here trying to figure out what genius gifts I’m going to give this year, when I know I’m probably going to fall victim to impulse buys yet again, only to be told what someone really wants two days before Christmas time, and then I’ll run to the store and try and find the closest facsimile to what it was they had their hearts set on, only to get something that’s not quite as good.

It never fails.

Tis the season to buy folly.

We had a huge argument last Christmas. By “we” I mean everyone. See there was a big debate about Santa. When/if I have kids, would I tell him/her/them about Santa Claus. When I found out about Santa I was really let down, and I put everything together and figured out about everyone that is supposed to visit me during my slumber.I felt scammed.

Actually I found out because of the Easter Bunny. I guess one morning my parents forgot to hide the eggs before I woke up, and when they weren’t hidden my mom took me aside and said that the Easter Bunny came to the house that morning and explained that he wasn’t feeling very well and was really tired from all the hiding and asked if Dad could hide our eggs that morning for him. I had this image of this giant bunny standing in our doorway with his ears all droopy and tired, smoking a cigarette and carrying this giant basket going, “Ya know, if you could just help me out with this, Johnny, it’d be beautiful, ya know I’m sayin’?”

And my seven year old brain knew that something was fishy. And I figured it all out. I couldn’t understand why my parents wouldn’t just tell me that they were doing it, why did they want to give all the credit to someone else… I guess now it’s easier to say, “Maybe Santa didn’t know you wanted the Barbie Dream House,” or, “I guess the Tooth Fairy didn’t see that it was a molar. Otherwise she probably would have left more.”

I vowed right then and there that when I had kids I’d tell them the truth, and why we make these mythical characters and everything. This has caused quite a stir among friends and family.

“That’s cruel, man.”

“You’re heartless.”

“You’ll change your mind when you have your own kids.”


“Why do you want to ruin Christmas?”

I just didn’t want my kids to think that I would ever lie to them. This sets Eric off in such a rage that it has caused me to really rethink what I was doing. Not just him, either…I think it broke my mother’s heart. I love to watch what Christmas does to her. She gets so happy giving gifts to people.. not shopping, mind you, but just the actual wrapping and giving and watching people get so happy that they were thought of. That’s what I really like about Christmas. I remember how excited I would be Christmas Eve as a kid… my sister and I would stay up all night and when it’d get really quiet and everyone had gone to bed we’d sneak down and look at the tree in the dark with presents all around and our stockings all filled up and the plate of cookies empty… and we’d check the tree to see who got this big package and who got that tiny package… we’d never shake. Mom taught us that it was cheating to shake the gifts, and you could break whatever was inside… but we’d get so excited that we didn’t know what was inside.

And I guess it’s exciting to not really know who this gift giver is that sneaks into your house in the nanosecond between when your parents go to bed and you sneak downstairs to see what is under the tree.

So maybe I will tell my kids there’s a Santa, and when they ask honestly and truthfully because they are confused… I’ll explain what Santa does… that Santa is this feeling like love or honor… Santa is the spirit of giving and wishing…

I guess there’s nothing wrong with that.

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