It’s two weeks before Christmas and, as usual, I’m on my way to the Goodwill. Not to shop, but to make room in my storage space. My donation box contains an assortment of last year’s Yuletide gifts from my family—lawn lights, ski gloves, a music box, and a Twister game, to name a few. What does a middle-aged woman with bad knees and a fat husband want with a Twister game? Really. I’m trying to keep the emergency room visits to a minimum, especially now that I no longer have health insurance.

Guilt sets in as the small man in a blue smock sorts through my stuff. Some of these items were chosen with care. Such as the wok (from my brother who knows I love stir-fry) that almost set fire to my kitchen. But the basket of scented soap was a last-minute panic grab by someone who either forgot or didn’t care that perfume gives me a headache.

My niece calls while I’m collecting my receipt, and the seasonal madness starts all over.
“What do you want for Christmas this year?” she demands, high on the adrenaline of power shopping her way through a Fred Meyer half-off white sale.
“Nothing,” I say, as I do every year.
“I’m going to buy you something anyway, so you might as well give me a clue.”
“Please don’t. I would rather you gave the money to charity.”
“You’re no fun.” She hangs up and goes back to shopping; there are 20 people on her list.

Why does my family continue to buy me presents when I have asked them year after year not to? I am middle-aged, I (used to) earn a good living, and I acquired everything I need long ago. I am also making good progress in accumulating everything I want. The only things that I want—that I don’t already have—are too expensive for me. Which means they are also too expensive for my family and friends.

I do not need another crock-pot, fry-baby, or nut-cracker. (I am far too lazy to ever purchase nuts in the shell.) I do not wear fuzzy sweaters because they make my skin itch, and if a sweatshirt is red or green with any sort of reindeer or snowflakes, I’d could walk around naked with less embarrassment. And as long as I’m being a snob, I don’t eat the plastic cheese or greasy processed-meat sticks from Hickory Farms either. On the other hand, I do love chocolate—but it makes me look fat. So anyone who wraps it in irresistible pink and silver and puts my name on it doesn’t really love me.

Having run out of other options, some family members have started giving gift certificates. But seriously, what is the point of two 40-something siblings simultaneously exchanging cash at the end of December? In what way is this meaningful or logical?

At the bottom of my donation box are two ceramic Santas, three assorted-sized silver bells, and a collection of green and red candles that could torch the neighborhood if they were all lit at once. As I part with the decorations, I think: I haven’t put up a tree since my kids moved out. Does my family really think the sight of a three-inch Saint Nick in red suspenders and shorts is going to turn this Scrooge around? Hah!

On the way home, I call my niece back. “I changed my mind,” I say. “I know what I want for Christmas.”
“Cool. What?”
“An indoor swimming pool. With a hot tub.”
“You’re so funny. Will you settle for a bag of York Peppermint Patties? They’re low fat.”
“Sure.” I hang up the phone. One down. Sixteen to go.

PS: If you have to/like to buy Christmas gifts—buy books!

  1. I am so with you on this one!

  2. hey. you know *I* never buy anything for anyone. Unless I see it, immediately think of them and know they’ll appreciate it. This doesn’t happen often and rarely around the holidays. So you can mark another one of us off your list. 😛

    but you really captured that which is the spirit of giving in our family… seriously what am I going to do with a pair of fuzzy black and white striped monkey headed socks…. or that basket of bath stuff… or the million pairs of gold(ish) jewelry (when I don’t like gold and never have)… although I do appreciate the gift certificates, us broke college students got to buy the essentials somehow.

  3. I tend to give gifts that are consumable: food gift packs, bottles of booze, or calendars. Everyone needs to eat, drink, and figure out what day of the week is it.

  4. Yes.

  5. OK, out of C.D.’s list, I choose booze.

    You’d have to get your whole family to agree to do what a friend of mine did. No gifts this year, except for young kids. Each family took their money and spent it on one family in need — presents, food and an evening with the family.

  6. Surely your family could give you something meaningful… perhaps a donation in your name? Or a letter describing one of their favorite memories with you? One thing to remember while you’re grousing about the gifts you don’t need – it sounds like your family wants to express their love somehow. They just need a little push in the right direction.
    P.S. I get gifts every year from my nieces – stupid, useless trinkets. But my nieces are young and they’ve bought these things with their own money, so I can’t help but feel grateful for their generosity.

  7. I’m with you 100% – if you must buy me something, a giftcard for a book would be just dandy. Okay, I’d take a bottle of booze, too. Harvey’s or Bombay Sapphire would be okay.

    But forget the damn Christmas lights. Let the merchants light up the night, but the energy comsumption of private homes inside and out? Get a clue – that energy comes from coal-fired power plants and cause tremendous environmental damage. Light a soy candle and call it good. Or at least get energy-efficient LEDs.

    Okay… off my soapbox.

    Mrs. Scrooge

  8. Amen, L.J. Give me a bookstore gift card and I’m happy, although I have so many books now that some are in stacks on the floor. Thanks for reminding me to drop off some boxes of stuff at the Salvation Army before Christmas.

    Happy holidays!

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