Friday, December 7, 2007
Presence Rather than Presents
I’m thinking today about what I want for Christmas. The question causes anxiety because as a retiree, I am discovering that despite all the catalogues and flyers piled on my table, with such an overabundance of exotic and lovely gifts, I feel no stir of excitement.
The excitement that once so clearly defined the Holiday Season is still understood, expected, and a given right, but not so easily found, so easily wrapped, and so easily exchanged as it once was in the form of chocolates, a plush robe, or bath oil.
But even so, I think somewhere that joy resides. Perhaps I have to dig a bit deeper. Perhaps it is being smothered by bittersweet longings for youth and past festive celebrations. Whatever the case, I am determined to resurrect it—regardless of how cause and concept are altered by maturity.
So, for openers, the first dominant theory is that as a retiree I have slipped from the practical-reality side of life to the impractical-reflective side. So rather than putting up my tree, I want to write a beautiful poem about Christmas. Rather than tidying up the house, I want to reminisce about childhood. Rather than baking, I want to lounge in my chair and revel in the staggering musical lyrics of “O Holy Night” and “The Little Drummer Boy.”
And rather than finding the perfect outfit for Christmas, I want to find a perfect new phrase that represents my appreciation for life. And rather than a mess of paper packages to stimulate the warm satisfaction of an increase, I want a post-Xmas increase in original notions, warm hugs, sweet truths, and simple delightful stories that I can stash without rearranging cabinets and drawers. I don’t want to have to toss precious old things to make room for new. And there is little hope of finding Christmas joy through space cleansing and the ultimate painful abomination of guilt I am liable to feel for my part in contributing to global warming.
So, wouldn’t it be pleasant to find on my hearth on Christmas Day an abundant menagerie of conversation, loving affection and most of all, the unanticipated ‘presence’ rather than ‘presents’ of a dear one so far away?
The gifts I desire uncannily fill a genuine need. I see them as generous gifts, as transports of delight, gloriously wrapped in the scent of love and ribbons of devotion without the inconvenience of sticky tape that won’t stick and weak paper that so easily tears. Gifts that blossom open without a cutter to reveal contents that dazzle the soul and provide function for the body and festive décor for the mind.
Yet, even at that, some of my tribe are still bustling about the shops, wincing and sighing. Still on the hunt. And if asked, they would say I am difficult to choose a gift for and impossible to please.