Years ago, I lived with someone who kept an inventory of Christmas, Birthday and Easter (cringe) gifts and would sulk discriminately if ever someone failed to satisfy her batshit crazy expectations. Missing an opportunity to ‘gift’ this person was such an obvious faux pas it was akin to striking her, Looney Tunes Style on the scone with an anvil. This was a shock to my apparently shrivelled little heart made of tar. It really made me feel a bit crook, and put me off the joy of giving even longer than I could reasonably have gotten away with.
I’m not whinging either, it’s just that I’m usually not a gifting kind of individual, preferring to give things to people as the desire arises, generally not on certain dates or birthdays, but randomly and whenever the hell I feel like it. Not because I’m not generous or anti-celebrational, but because I just never really subscribe to the hassle of having to perform as some kind of whiplashed Christmas Elf.
Needless to say, It’s been so long since someone handed me a boxed package with a ribbon on top and said “This is for you!”.
Christmas in my family is most usually large, a loose and a dangerously drunk event. We all (9 sets of partners and 20 something grandkids, grandparentals at the top and family pets also welcome) get together on the far less time- constrained Boxing day and gruffly exchange handmade Kris Kringle gifts. We avoid drawing attention to the really baaad ones, gush and pore over the ones clearly product of talent, and finally when all the gifts are exchanged, we again draw names out of the hat/glenfiddich box/salad bowl for the next Christmas to come, someone claims it’s rigged and then we get drunk.
However, this year I found myself enjoying the hunt for the perfect gift for my Kringle, Ava, the four year old pink junkie/deluded ballerina niece, so much that the trail of interest led to trawling Ebay for gifts for others in my family I had come to appreciate over the years. The parcels arrived, one by one, and I unwrapped them, admired them, wrapped them back up in length of festively meaningful Aldi gift wrap, (cheery little candy canes, you’d have smiled) and attached cards to them, the way normal people do. Well, perhaps normal people buy cards instead of use the free ones the foot artists send in the post every year, BUT NONTHELESS an unlikely festive feeling descended on me. This felt good! I ordered a few more gifts and marvelled at the lack of horror I felt watching my bank balance diminish.
A long time ago, someone said somewhere in some kind of reading medium that “When you give to someone, you get back three-fold. I dare you to try it.” I quickly forgot I ever read this. But, I remembered somehow when my sister (who’d been traipsing the streets of New York with her significant other for the last three weeks) arrived on our doorstep with an armful of unique treats of the globe for my son, and the first thing she did was rustle around in her amazing new mandarin leather handbag and produce a lovely charcoal colored box with a silky sesame colored ribbon tied in a crisp bow on top.
“This is for you!” She guffawed brightly, with warmth and genuine love in her voice. This is nice! I like this! My heart yelled loudly, making my face go hot and my chin stick out. Pulling the silky ribbon gently, the bow spilled away, and lifting the lid away, the loveliest little necklace revealed itself inside. A golden swallow suspended in a warm sea of resin, the backdrop of an afternoon city in the late sunshine. “It’s brass!” She goes, her face round with happiness and goodwill. “I’ve got one too! Remember those little gold bracelets we had when we were fat babies? With the blue swallows? Well these reminded me. Is it a bit naff? Do you like it?” I remembered the unassuming gift buying I’d been merrily partaking in, and the thing I’d read about giving and receiving, three-fold, more than you gave of yourself.
I find the receiving of gifts awkward for the best part. It’s hard to convey true appreciation, as there’s a lot of pressure in making sure the person who just spent money to make you happy knows you are telling the truth when you say ” Oh! I love it!”
But I really, really do love it.
As a new mum, adornment is a workplace hazard. Once dripping in heavy ethnic silver from Rajasthan to the Southern Chinese Hill tribes, I haven’t worn jewelry since before I was pregnant and my knuckles swelled up like fat chokos at the vic market. Any of my favourite dazzlers get ripped off my neck or out of my ears in only minutes. But this gift, well, I’ll wrestle my 10 month old’s sticky fingers off to keep it round my neck. Every time I stop to admire it I’m going to remember the threefold rule. It works. Something so special happened when my darling sister, bless her big nose, handed me a symbol of gratitude, affection and thanks. It feels good to be loved, it feels good to love someone else.
I’m so lucky.
What will your loved ones get out of Christmas?