Why do you buy presents?

Yesterday I got a call from my mother. She was moody, grumpy, and basically annoyed with the world. The reason for her call — to get Christmas gift ideas for the kids. She had spent the entire day before out shopping, looking for things, anything, and still hadn’t spent what she had budgeted for them. In fact, she hadn’t found anything for them other than the one gift idea I gave her for each of them nearly a month ago.

As patiently as I could, I tried telling her that one gift was more than enough and the kids would be grateful for that. She wouldn’t hear of it. She got more and more agitated as we talked and by the end of our conversation, when I had no other gift ideas for her, she was angry. I kept reiterating to her that the dollar amount she spent or how many gifts she had for them really wasn’t the point, but all she managed to scream at me was, “I know it’s not about the gifts, but I need more ideas for what to buy!”

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Okay, so her logic is definitely lost on me, but at the same time, I know I have taken some of her beliefs and lessons that her and my father have instilled in me about Christmas gift giving and been guilty of practicing them over the years. Even this year I found myself stressing about buying gifts for people, wondering if I’d bought enough, wondering if I should buy more, rethinking my decision not to buy presents for my parents because they neither need anything nor appreciate it. Rather than buying gifts, I chose to make them cookies, take them to a concert (not proclaiming however that it was a Christmas gift), and spending time with them. Based on my mother’s materialistic view of gifts, I know she and my father will be hurt and disappointed when they have no gifts to open this year.

After my conversation with my mother, after she flatly hung up on me when I could not supply her with any more “ideas,” I began to scour the stores for gifts for her and my father. Once again I had been sucked into the Christmas gift merry-go-round that is neither fun, nor what I want this season to reflect or be about.

When I buy a gift for someone, I want it to be because I know it is something they are going to love or at least hope they will. I don’t want to go out and arbitrarily buy gifts just so I have something to give someone in return for a gift they are buying me. I don’t want to check off a list that is handed to me and then watch as the recipient checks off their list in their head as they open gifts.

I’m not against buying someone what they want, but I am against being chained to a list. Some of the most wonderful gifts I have received are ones that I never knew I wanted. My good friend Suzanne has especially surprised me with many wonderful gifts, thoughtful gifts, gifts I know that she put a part of herself into and she has truly inspired me to try to do the same with gifts I buy or make.

This phone call from my mother, however, tainted my perspective once again and gave me reason to doubt myself and my gift giving choices. I hate that. My mother has an uncanny way of bringing the worst out in me. It’s not like this holiday season hasn’t already had enough glitches in it with me being sick at the beginning and again now, being too busy or too exhausted to do many of the things that I wanted, forgetting what is truly important during the season, not doing any entertaining, and baking only a few holiday treats to date — why not throw in a little gift-giving guilt to round out the season?!!

So, this morning I sat down and began to write. Now I used to write a lot of poetry when I was younger, but as of late, not so much. I love to write rhyming poems, but a lot of time they seem to turn out childish and don’t stay on point. Today, however, the words flowed, and with few bumps along the way, I managed to put my feelings on paper about gift giving and touch on the holidays in general. If you’re interested, I put it in a separate post titled “The Christmas Lesson.”

Remember, this is the season of compassion, so bear with my poetic attempt.

Anyway, Merry Christmas to you all and I hope your holidays are filled with love and joy and the gifts that you wanted as well as those you didn’t know you did. The holidays are upon us, today and everyday in your heart if you let them, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

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