Saturday, December 25, 2004


I've always felt uneasy about Christmas because gift giving has always been this code I've never been able to decipher. Giving gifts was always this burden that my mom would put on me; I didn't know what people really wanted, I couldn't afford to buy good stuff anyway, and it made no sense to me to give people things they didn't want just to be giving them something. But inevitably, that's what I did. People are always getting random, grabbed-at-the-last-second gifts from me because I can't just show up with nothing, can I? It's bad form.

Even worse for a kid, I often got the wrong things. And inevitably, people would be disappointed when I opened a gift and was myself disappointed. This sounds horribly ungrateful (as I was constantly reminded by my mom), because, isn't it the thought that counts?

And of course, the point is that it is the thought that counts. The problem is that the thought is rarely, "I'm going to give this person this thing that he wants and will be thrilled with." More often, it's, "Crap, I have no idea what he wants, but I have to get him something, so I'll just get (insert random toy/item of clothing here) and throw some gift-wrap on it." Is it any surprise this is what I end up doing most Christmases? Is it any surprise this is what most of us do?

Sometimes, my wife takes pity on me and hands me a catalog with a particular item circled. Other years, I'm on my own. Sometimes, I end up aborting to a random sweater or something. Sometimes, I break down and say, "I give up. Just tell me what you want." Other years, I try to be more creative, and a couple of times, I've hit the jackpot. I've tried at times to be creative with the presentation as well, giving decoy gifts or leaving a trail of clues that lead all over the house before ending up at the gift. These things have made for some memorable Christmases, but still, it's my 42nd Christmas. You'd think I would have this down by now, and I just don't. What's wrong with this picture?

This year, by the way, my wife surrendered, too. She said to me, "Let's just bag Christmas for each other and put together care packages for soldiers abroad." So that's what we did. We went shopping for the stuff together, and it ended up being a lot of fun. We did one for a guy, and one for a girl. I slipped a copy of Blue Falcon into the guy package (I figured a guy would get the book more than a female would). It was fun. I don't know if I want to do that every Christmas, but this year, it was a nice change of pace.

And a lot less stressful.

Got to go to work now. Some folks might say it sucks to work on Christmas Day, and if I worked retail someplace, like a QuikTrip, I might agree. But I like working the station on Christmas. Nobody's there; it's very restful.

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