Dawn's 2007 Cornball Holiday Post
I am home sick from work today, since I woke up at 4:30 with the start of a sore throat and a head that felt like it was filled with cement. Since there was absolutely nothing for me to do at work today--I would have spent the day finishing my cards and writing gift stories--then I did not see the point of going to work, prolonging my illness, and exposing all of my coworkers and the inmates to my illness, right before Christmas when people don't need to be miserable and sick and sneezing over their roast beasts. (*eeewwww*)
My illness is totally my fault. This year--as in pretty much every December since I officially arrived at Adulthood--I did too much in too short of time. Sharon and Kirsty are over for the holidays, and we all went to dinner last night, and after everyone left, I got into the shower and went to bed at 10 o'clock like a little old lady because I've been exhausted for weeks now. And I'm still annoyed that this year, for the first time in years, I never got to making candy. So those of you who usually get candy from me for Christmas: I am not snubbing anyone. I am snubbing everyone because I didn't make candy at all! I hope to make up for it with some most awesome ice cream pies.
But the good news is that I am feeling better as the day progresses. The day off has also served a nice secondary function in letting me get some things done that I've been neglecting. Like laundry. Yesterday, after spending the day constantly rearranging the waistband of my underwear because all I had left clean were too small and kept digging into my hips (tmi, I know), then I realized that, yes, I need to brave the freezing cold laundry room and do some washing. (Though my lovely husband bought me a small portable heater for the laundry room! Awwww ...)
So anyway, this year, Bobby and I have tried a great new Christmastime experiment. We have hardly bought any gifts. We have decided to do things differently. Instead of spending a boatload on each other for crap that the other one will never use, then we got a few items that we need (Bobby got egg armor; I got a sewing machine and book on illumination that Master Tristan recommended) and are saving the rest to travel to England in the spring. And instead of buying our families junk that they don't want or need just to say, "I bought you something!" then we put together a big family dinner on Sunday at a really nice Italian restaurant in the area that we are paying for.
We cleared this with everyone ahead of time. Hey, I said, if they want junk or gift cards or the usual crap that we buy, then that's fine. But personally ... I'd rather spend time with the people I care about instead of spending money just to say that I spent money.
This has been a growing philosophy of mine for the past few years. It was a matter of getting Bobby to understand my views ... and the holidays are so personal for everyone that it wasn't something I ever wanted to force on him. Still, I would be lying if I said that it didn't create some tension, when I wanted to set spending limits and use the money we saved on a weekend trip or a really nice evening out, and we'd constantly exceed those limits ... and a year later, neither of us could remember what we'd gotten the year prior. And I still have Games Workshop models that cost a good deal of money, still wrapped in the box, from our first Christmas as a married couple in 2004. And Bobby still has DVDs that I bought him that we've never watched.
But this year, it was Bobby's suggestion, so of course, I was right on board. And I won't be dishonest: There have been times where I've felt uncomfortable and cheap and lazy, wondering if I am doing the right thing. It's just so ingrained in our culture that the holidays mean spending a load of money on gifts for people to show that you care. And I'm not opposed to gifts. But gifts just for the sake of giving things, without thought as to whether the recipient wants, needs, or will appreciate it, just doesn't make sense to me.
I keep telling myself that. In truth, receiving gifts has become an uncomfortable affair for me because half of the stuff I know I'll never use, and it just doesn't seem worth it. But I always worry that other people will feel sad or cheated, not getting loads of gifts for Christmas, but don't want to say that because my idea certainly embodies the true-meaning-of-Christmas message that serves as the capstone to every cheeseball Hallmark holiday classic: It's not the gifts you get but the joy that you share. All together now: Awwwwww ... Many an otherwise funny holiday movie has been ruined by that notion laid on thick with a putty knife.
But, at the same time, we confuse giving things with giving in general. Take what I consider to be the most detestable Christmas song ever written (and there are plenty that annoy me terribly, but this one actually disgusts me), "The Christmas Shoes." (Lyrics here) Last year, I was on the verge of ranting about this song in my journal, but everyone who I mentioned my misgivings about the song to in real life told me that I was either over-analyzing it or missing the point, and I was worried about much the same here and didn't have the strength to answer such comments at the time. But I've thought about it more and am now convinced that I am not over-analyzing it and I am not missing the point: The song is about a little boy whose mother could die at any minute, and instead of spending those last minutes with her, making memories that he will cherish for the rest of his life (and that will probably infinitely brighten what little remains of hers), he is out in a store, trying to buy her a pair of shoes with pennies and begging money off of strangers when he comes up short. Oh, and he wants her to look beautiful in case she "meets Jesus tonight," because we all know that Jesus really gives a shit about our corporeal beauty. But I digress.
My point in all of this is that, yes, we all echo the mantra about Christmas (or the holidays in general) being about giving, giving, giving. And yes, giving is good. The Felagund family gives to charity every year at the holidays. I give lots of time to making stories and cards and candy (well, not this year on the last bit ...) that I know will delight people. And I have given--and received--gifts that will be remembered forever.
But like "The Christmas Shoes," giving things for the sake of giving things reaches a point where it does more harm than good. What is that little boy missing while standing in a long queue to buy a pair of shoes? This year, without having to brave the malls multiple times looking for junk that would pass as gifts for people who neither need nor want anything material, it is amazing how much more I have been able to enjoy the holidays. Bobby and I have had time to watch multiple movies together, all of the classics of which we usually pick one or two each year. We have had time to drive around with the dogs looking at lights in the neighborhood. We went to the North Carroll High School choral program the other night, and we are going to Hershey Park on Saturday. We have had time for two shows and several dinners with our families. We have actually gotten to interact with each other more than tired, footsore salespeople in the mall.
Yes, I am still tired; yes, I am still busy because every minute between those activities has been crunched with different holiday tasks, but this is honestly the first year that I have really enjoyed our traditions since I was a kid. Usually, we run out of time and energy for everything that we want to do.
But anyway. The big Christmas experiment in the House of Felagund has not yet reached its full and complete conclusion, so we'll see.