Sunday, December 25, 2011
Every Christmas seems to be characterized by a theme. I do not believe that this is contrived or planned. It is the organic outgrowth of the interests and activities of our family and its members that year. For example, there have been Christmases that have consisted of largely hand-made gifts. I still treasure the quilt my mother made be when I was eighteen, and had just started living with my boyfriend. She embroidered on the back, “Love is a warm bed.” That Christmas, her handiwork exceeded mine, but I did manage to sew some aprons and my sister made my parents an amazing rendition of of Martha’s Vineyard in elaborate crewel.
One Christmas, I recall all of the gifts somehow revolved around kitchens. Cookbooks, cookware, gift certificates to food purveyors, kitchen tools and kitchen towels were exchanged. We laughed very hard when the clips my mother had purchased to close bags of chips and pretzels were put to a much baser use on my brother-in-law. This led to the use of kitchen string and the clips being used as a tool in a spoof of an x-rated movie. The laughter at the adults-only humor caused a sudden rush of many of us to the bathrooms.
There was a Christmas of outerwear and underwear. Everyone on Santa’s list received coats, hats, hand warmers as well as long johns, briefs and bikinis.
There was a Christmas of beauty salves and tonics for renewed vigor of hair and skin. A most confusing year because it wasn’t clear whether these were hopeful suggestions or desperate ones.
This year, it came down to exceedingly thoughtful gifts. The presents that I found under the tree were ones that reflected my interests and longings. Not a year of computer technology, nor one of cosmetics or giftcards. Instead, we gave and received, a panoply of very personal treasures. For me, some of my gifts included my signature scent - Chanel No.#5, a cashmere shawl and parts to repair my broken hot tub. I gave my husband warm socks and snow shoes, my son wanted Desert boots, my daughters asked for pens and earrings, stockings and books. All budget-worthy items that were easy to acquire and were things on their wish lists. Santa left one glaring disappointment as he packed his bag to leave Chestnut Mountain View.
No Philip was delivered for my son, Charles. Charles has lobbied since August for a kitten to join our menagerie. This scheme he hatched grew at an alarming rate and intensity. Three days before Christmas, Charles still maintained the only gift he desired this year was a kitten. A fictitious kitten that he named Philip became the focus of most of his discussions with me. He lobbied hard both in person and through texts, emails and voice messages. He contacted the local animal shelter to ask about availability. Charles reported back to me that kitten season was almost over, but the shelter had two or three from which to choose.
“No,” I said.
Firmly. Kindly. Repeatedly. I stated that we already have a dog and a cat and that is all this household can manage right now. This morning, the stockings were filled to overflowing and it took over an hour and a half to open all our gifts to and from each other. There were squeals of excitement, ooohs and aaahs, and a general chorus of appreciation. I confess to trying to win Charles’s affections by baking cupcakes and piling mountains of vanilla frosting on each one. He thanked me politely and asked if Philip was in my office waiting for him.
Beside Charles’s focus on Philip, this year’s theme would easily be summarized by one word...Thoughtful.
The gifts I gave, the gifts I received, were related by one strand of a common thread: all of the gift-giving was exceedingly thoughtful and attuned to each individual. For me, that meant such diverse items as homemade preserves from my friend’s farm, a flowing sweater, Chanel Number 5, a Kindle, two charms for my Pandora bracelet and a ring from my father. I hope that, in gift-giving, I captured so completely one element from the complex composition of character that compose my friend’s and family's interests.
This Christmas would be best characterized by an intimacy borne of familiarity of each individual’s tastes and preferences. For that alone, Christmas 2011 will be one I remember.