Friday, December 19, 2008

Thinking Ahead to Christmas ...

I can't believe it. This never happens. I'm ready for Christmas a whole week early. I've finished shopping, and I don't even feel as if I've broken a sweat -- probably because I did a whole lot of shopping online this year. Usually, I don't mind getting out in the holiday shopping crowds and sharing all that holiday spirit with a bunch of strangers. I think I'm pretty patient when it comes to standing in lines and fighting over parking spaces. But this year the thought of driving through snow and ice, mincing in and out of the stores without falling, and standing in long lines for the privilege of handing over my hard earned money just had no appeal. And since my daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter live across country and all their gifts had to be shipped anyway, it made logical sense to just order the gifts and let somebody's shipping department take care of getting it there. Ordering online also had the extra benefit of allowing me to avoid the ghastly long lines in the post office. Of course, that means I haven't done a whole lot of wrapping this year, and my daughter and son-in-law are both doing more than their share, but they don't seem to mind, so it's working out okay. Besides, my daughter likes to coordinate the wrapping paper on the gifts under her tree and my haphazard wrapping style always plays havoc with her efforts, so I think she's even a little grateful that most of the gifts coming from me will be properly coordinated this year. Not all of the gifts, of course. My oldest daughter and I did manage to buy a handful of things in person, and we wrapped them in assorted, uncoordinated colors and carted them to the post office a couple of days ago. We packed them into boxes and wound our way through the crowd to stand in a line that made my back ache just looking at it. Then we noticed the do-it-yourself station, and we high-tailed it across the lobby so fast we almost broke our necks getting there. We had to wait for one person to finish putting postage on her packages, spent about 2 minutes printing labels and postage for our boxes, and got out of there before the line we'd been in inched forward by even one person. Great, right? Yeah, except for some reason I don't feel particularly jolly about the holidays this year. Maybe it's because we're not all together this year. Maybe it's because we're all so concerned about being frugal and staying within budget. Finding the gift for someone is much harder when you don't have any financial wiggle room, and I've never liked giving gifts just for the sake of giving a gift. In fact, in my family, the goal each year is to find just the right gift -- the one someone never thought they'd get, the one that makes them cry. The more tears, the better. Everyone else in the family -- brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, parents -- knows what the year's special gift is, and everyone waits with bated breath for the gift to be opened. When you're the recipient of the "Let's Make Her Cry" gift, you sometimes realize in advance that the gift you're about to open is this year's IT gift. Your first clue is that members of the family who have wandered away to change diapers or refresh a drink suddenly scurry back to the tree. The sudden proliferation of cameras is also a clue that the box on your lap may be something special. But even knowing that, even with advance warning, the gift is always something that will take your breath away. Not because it's expensive (although it sometimes is), but because it's so meaningful. I already know what this year's IT gift is. It's the webcam we gave my daughter and son-in-law last Christmas. No, maybe I can't sit in the room with them when they open their gifts, but I can do the next best thing, thanks to technology and a little foresight. Just thinking about that makes me feel a lot more jolly!

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