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Posts Tagged ‘presents’

jer ryder legos Christmas tree

The middle of our Christmas journey is always just that: the middle.

By which I mean: it is messy and rich and full, crowded with some of my favorite holiday traditions and the constantly-in-motion bodies of my two nephews. We are already a little tired, having flown 1,700 miles and driven nearly another 400.

blue sky highway Texas

This year, the drive happened on Christmas Eve – blue sky, long straight highways, Sara Bareilles and Mumford on Spotify, boy-band holiday music when we started to go a little crazy. It ended with my dad greeting us at the door: “We have to leave for church in 45 minutes!”

There was a mad scramble to wrap the last few gifts, kneeling on the guest room floor surrounded by Scotch tape and scraps of wrapping paper. I barely had time to brush my hair before we piled into the car. J and I snapped a photo in front of the lobby Christmas tree before heading inside, hoping we could get a seat – the 4:00 service tends to be crowded.

k j Christmas tree church fbc

Somehow, in spite of the lead-up, I was able to relax then: to exhale into one of my favorite church services of the year. You can count on a few things at my parents’ church: glittering, glorious Christmas trees; Doris on the pipe organ; familiar faces from my childhood and teenage years; and all the verses of as many carols as possible.

candles Christmas Eve silent night fbc

This was Christmas: relishing the third verse of Joy to the World and holding hands with my mother as we lifted our candles during Silent Night. This was Christmas: listening to a string quartet, my husband’s tenor voice, the babbles and cries of so many babies.

This was Christmas: coming, perhaps, no closer to understanding how or why God came into our midst, but choosing to acknowledge and celebrate. We cannot explain, but we rejoice.

moms tree gifts

We headed back to my parents’ for a pre-gift-exchange smorgasbord: cheese and charcuterie, apple slices and carrot sticks, square pretzels topped with chocolate and mint M&Ms. My nephews, decked out in their Santa shirts, could hardly wait to get to the unwrapping, but first we snacked, and then we listened to my sister read the story that still moves me, every year. “For unto you is born this day.” Unto us a child is born, and nothing will ever be the same.

nephews unwrapping presents gifts Christmas

This was the year of the Legos: the boys are obsessed, and they received sets from multiple family members. (Their other favorite thing was a pair of tiny laser guns – a gift for my dad, who still loves to get toys at Christmas.) We had presents that night and stockings the next day, and there were chocolates and new socks, scarves and Starbucks cards and fancy tea (for me).

The weather – after a freak dust-and-rainstorm, complete with tumbleweeds – continued mild, and we spent two afternoons in my sister’s backyard playing football and baseball and climbing on the swing set. We grilled burgers and ribs and did full justice to all the traditional holiday sides (most of them potato-based). I went for a few solo runs in my parents’ neighborhood, looping through the familiar roads under (mostly) bare branches and blue sky.

sneakers rocks running west Texas

The hubs, fighting sinus trouble, won the Best Uncle Award for playing every kind of sport (and Lego) we could squeeze in. My brother-in-law showed off his model train, and more quietly, his grilling skills. I slipped out onto my sister’s front lawn to snap pictures of the sunsets. And the best, as always, was being together.

If you celebrated, I hope your holidays were lovely. Now: onward into 2019.

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Some of the best gifts: tea, handknits, chocolate, time in front of the Christmas tree.

The gift-buying season is in full swing, and while I started my Christmas knitting early, I’m now into the what-do-I-buy-everyone panic that hits every year, no matter how carefully I plan. (Stereotypically, the men in my family – father, husband, brother-in-law – are particularly difficult to shop for.)

Part of me loves to hunt for (and make) gifts for my loved ones – because I believe a thoughtful, well-chosen gift is a wonderful way to say “I love you.” The best part is finding that elusive perfect gift, wrapping it up, and anticipating the look of joy when they unwrap it on Christmas morning. A gift that says I really know them, and I care deeply enough to either buy or make them something that fits perfectly with their personality and lifestyle.

Quite a lot of pressure for a few smallish packages, isn’t it?

And that’s just the emotional side of it. We haven’t even tackled the pressure to buy local/handmade/fair trade/ethically sourced gifts when possible; to support my favorite stores; to buy people gifts they’ll actually use; and to stay on budget, not to mention the headache and expense of fitting some presents into my suitcase and shipping the rest.

And then there’s the big reason, the one I usually ignore because I’m embarrassed to admit it: I want these packages to do something they cannot do.

I want the presents I buy to express how much I love (and often miss) the folks who are receiving them, of course. And that’s fine. But somehow, I wish these gifts could make up for all the times and all the ways I can’t be there as I would like to. (This anxiety hits particularly hard when I shop for my parents, who are proud and supportive of their globe-trotting daughter but really wish she still lived a couple of hours away, or even down the street.) And those presents, no matter how wonderful, simply can’t do that.

Because in the end, they’re only Christmas gifts. Inanimate objects, even if they’re made with (and express) great love. They can delight and inspire and amuse; they can look fashionable or provide warmth or engender hours of entertainment. But they cannot take the place of a relationship. They can only be a token of the love I feel for these people who are my family, by blood or by choice. And, sadly, they cannot make up for all the ways I sometimes feel inadequate as a daughter, a wife, a sister, a friend. Nor should they be made to bear that burden.

So as I finish up my shopping, I’m trying to breathe deeply and remember that. They’re only presents, after all. And if I don’t expect them to save the world, it’s much easier to delight in buying and giving them.

Do any of you get as tied up in knots about gift-giving as I do? And for the moderately sane among us, what are your secrets? (HELP.)

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