Absent Presents

I’m not a particularly religious person, nor were my parents, but I was brought up celebrating Christmas as a kind of cultural tradition. We put up a tree and sang carols and exchanged gifts. My mother always emphasized that we were to take pleasure in picking out gifts for others, moreover, that this was more important than awaiting for gifts yourself.

That was a harder sell to little kids, but I think something must have stuck with me because as I got older the choosing of gifts became my chief joy at Christmas season.

At this stage of my life I am fortunate enough to possess most of the material things that I truly want (as these are usually books or music my wants have rarely broken the bank). It’s been a long time since I was waiting eagerly to see what awaited me under the Christmas tree, but I’ve been able to get excited about getting things for the rest of the family, and watching their surprised and pleased expressions.

This year, though something odd has happened. The kids are old enough that they suddenly don’t seem either as interested or as covetous. For instance, it was hard to get lists from them of possible presents. And my wife and I have had to make some home-related purchases (more needs than wants, like replacing the dangerous 40-year-old gas fireplace that heats our family room with a modern safe one) so that we’re not really planning on more than a small exchange this year.

I can’t tell if this is a fluke, or the sign of things to come. Still, even if I’m not really looking forward as much to watching the gifts being opened this year, I look forward to several days of relaxing with the family, playing games and sharing family favorite movies. It’s not too many more years before the kids head off to colleges, probably far from home, and then things will really change. I suppose I sense that we are on the verge of transitioning into a new stage of life and it has me feeling a little morose. I’m trying to remind myself of how lucky we’ve had it, and how lucky we still are, and hold on to the moment.

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