Thanksgiving was never important to me. It’s a family holiday and people get together and eat lots of turkey and watch football. I was never part of a group that supposedly was showing their thankfulness and I could care less about football. When I still ate turkey, I would make Thanksgiving dinner and have whoever wanted to to stop by. Anyone who didn’t have a place to be was welcome, so my brother and a friend or two would stop over. I just liked being able to provide that for them. But when I stopped eating meat and then poultry, that was the end of that, and by then my little circle had gotten smaller.
Christmas is different. Christmas has always been important to me. I love the spirit of it. I love to decorate for it, and put up a tree. I love buying presents for people, wrapping them with lots of ribbons, and putting them under the tree with the lights flickering off the foil paper. I love stockings and always hung a stocking for all my animals and for myself. If I was alone, I’d dump some candy in my stocking just so there would be something in it. The cats would get toys and treats. I’d go full-on Martha Stuart during this time of year and bake a metric ton of cookies, then give them away to everyone. And when I came home from work to an empty house, the Christmas decorations would cheer me up. I’d wind up my Christmas music boxes, my Abominable Snowman, my dancing elves. I’d burn candles in various Christmas scents and try to keep the cats from destroying my delicate ornament collection. I loved it all from the reverent to the whimsical. It was beautiful.
When I was little, I would sleep under the tree, next to the wrapped presents. I’d look up through the branches and watch the patterns on the ceiling change with the flickering of the lights. I guess Christmas calls to that child in me.
As early as I can remember, I got presents for my family. I would make things when I was very small. There is one present I remember making for a favorite aunt when I was about six or seven years old. It was a doll or maybe a figurine, but it was certainly unique. I took an empty toilet paper roll to use as the base of it. I then added layers of different colored tissue and Kleenexes to form the figure of a woman. (You knew it was a woman because she had enormous breasts.) I put this whole thing together with spit. Literally. I’d spit on the tissue, then stick it to the next one and form it like that. And oh, I was proud of this little monstrosity. When my favored aunt visited, I ran to my room to get this magnificent sculpture. I presented it to her excitedly and told her: “It’s a woman!” She said “I can see that.” She was smiling the whole time and she thanked me for the present. Then she asked me how I put it together and I told her proudly I had done it with spit. My uncle and parents started laughing, which confused me a bit, but my Aunt Terry did not. I believe she said something about how she would put it up some place and thanked me again. Now that I look back on it, her smile was rather fixed. Six year old me was happy and excited that my aunt had appreciated the gift I had put so much time (and self) into.
I imagine she probably dumped it right in the trash when I was out of her sight. 🙂 Then immediately washed her hands.
When I was eight, I had some allowance for chores saved so I had bought little presents for my parents, brother, and grandmother. I believe for a while I thought I needed to get presents for all my aunts, uncles and cousins too and this caused me no small amount of consternation. Saved quarters really didn’t go very far. I think it was my mother who talked me out of that notion. Anyway, it was close to Christmas and I had the presents wrapped and hidden in my closet. My parents had friends come visit and they had a little girl who was a year or two older than me. She told me that her family didn’t celebrate Christmas and that she didn’t exchange presents. I was stunned, and also filled with pity for this girl who wasn’t going to have any Christmas presents. I pulled my grandma’s gift out of the closet and gave it to her so that she would have a present. I don’t remember what it was. Anyway, she liked it and I felt better that she had at least one present. Until her parents found out. Apparently they were not at all pleased by my Christmas spirit and made her give it back to me before they left. I truly did not understand. My father was pissed, which was his default, but my mother explained that they were Jehovah Witnesses and that they did not practice Christmas like we did. I still didn’t understand it, not until I was older.
So this is the mindset I grew up with about Christmas. For a while I went to Sunday school and then it was about Jesus’ birthday as well, but it’s always been about the spirit. A lot of that has stayed with me as an adult. I don’t feel the need to spend huge amounts of money. It’s not about that. There’s not a chance in hell you’ll catch me in the stores on Black Friday, or any time leading up to Christmas if I can help it. (Thank God for internet shopping!) I just love giving presents. I like getting them too, but I like giving them more.
Unfortunately, Brian doesn’t share any of these feelings and will actually get angry over presents. He doesn’t want to or can’t tell me why, so the presents I got for him were given to his brother. I suppose he made his point and I won’t do it again. But it also kills part of me that still had some joy.