I hate shopping. It’s eerie to come home from a cozy, loving holiday weekend and find news that the larger world has sunk into madness. While I was enjoying a two hour Swedish massage in the comfort of my daughter’s home, others were dying to obtain merchandise. Fighting, heart attacks, assault with weapons and overnight exposure to the elements remind me of wartime conditions. Are we at war as consumers? Where’s my flak jacket?
Good grief. I’ve never celebrated Christmas in a very commercial way. As an Episcopalian, I tried to focus on the sacramental aspect of the holiday. I spent a lot of time in church, singing in the choir, rehearsing the Christmas pageant and taking my kids caroling to shut-ins. We made Advent wreaths, Advent calendars, wrote Advent letters to friends and family and donated money and gifts to charity in each others’ names. It was never about Stuff. As a kid, I made presents for my family. My kids made presents for each other. One year, Becca just wrapped stuff we already had. My toaster, with crumbs, surprised me into a fit of laughter. I could get sore about not being appreciated with a gift, but I took it as a joke on the whole scene.
Perhaps this is just my personality. I am gift-challenged. I’m not very good at giving or receiving them. It’s not one of my Love Languages. My husband truly enjoyed giving gifts. My eldest daughter is a very creative, inspirational gift-giver. They have a knack for finding grace and meaning in Things. I have trouble with that. I probably have an aversion to Things, actually, and definitely an aversion to shopping. When I was about 9 years old, my mother took me Back to School shopping at a huge discount department store called Zayre’s. It was August. It was hot and humid. Our station wagon had no air conditioning. The store was not in our village. It must have been somewhere in the Sahara. It took forever to get there, forever to get the job done, forever to get home. I was sick with heat stroke. I remember my mother putting me in the bathtub and bringing me bananas to eat. Sitting in the cool water, eating bananas was like heaven to me at that point. I couldn’t imagine why I had been made to endure the ordeal that brought me to that state.
I’m not quite sure how I feel about Christmas this year. I don’t go to church anymore. I don’t think about Jesus in the way I used to. I do love to celebrate with food and family and lots of love. I like appreciating others and being appreciated. I’m not sure how I want to embody that, though. I always write a letter to my children for them to read on Christmas morning, a letter of hope and pride and blessing, I guess. There are ideas I want to give, but not things. However, William Carlos Williams keeps whispering “No ideas but in things” and I keep trying to understand. Shall I give everyone trees this Christmas? Or soil? Or double helix shaped jewelry? The sun? Words?
Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you….The Universe! Applause, appreciation, celebration, Holiday. Think I can pull it off?