Growing up, I enjoyed hearing my mother's Christmas stories. The only girl in a poor family of four children, she remembered fondly a special Christmas when she received a baby doll. Unfortunately, a neighbor's child ruined the doll by drawing on its face. My mom was very upset by the fact that her parents had spent money they could ill afford on a toy she could no longer enjoy. She would have many other gifts in the years to come, but the desecration of that baby doll dampened her Christmas spirit.
As she grew older and had her own children, she felt great joy watching us (me and my two younger siblings) open our gifts on Christmas mornings. My mother never outgrew feeling poor, though, and she has always felt that what she gave us over the years was never enough. In truth, she and my father gave us more than we could have dared to hope for: a loving home with stability and support. We may not have known it at the time, but the material gifts were just icing on the cake.
Grief now hangs over my mom's Christmases. Each year, our large family seems to lose a member; this year, it was my uncle Tiny. In 2010, my father passed, and the holidays serve as poignant reminders of his and others' absences. The season just does not feel very merry any longer.
My own holiday merriment has diminished over the years, too. I dislike Christmas the most of all the holidays. Some may call that statement blasphemy, but the reason we celebrate has been transformed into a shopping nightmare. The only reason for the season seems to be to make Visa & Mastercard more money. Let's face it: Christmas has been turned into a contest to see who can outspend whom and who forgot whom on their lists. I find myself having to purchase gifts for people I don't really like for the sake of no one being offended, when in truth, I don't really care if they get offended or not.
I also get slightly annoyed with people who get annoyed with me when I tell them I don't really want anything. They don't seem to believe me, although I honestly mean it. What I would rather have than someone's once a year token gesture of affection is having spent time with that person over lunch or at a show sometime during the year. Instead of it being an obligatory Christmas gift, why can't we just get together on some random Tuesday in August and have lunch just because you enjoy my company? Don't like me enough to go to lunch with me? Then you probably shouldn't buy me a Christmas gift either.
I guess this kind of thinking won't get me far. I'm bound to give and receive a number of gifts this year, but if I seem a little "scroogy" about it and mutter a "bah humbug" under my breath, please don't hold it against me too much. I've just lost some of my Christmas spirit.
However, if you are a truly good friend or family member, wrap me up an IOU card for a future lunch date in March. That'll put a smile on my face, guaranteed.