When you are 4 and when you are 7, Christmas is all about the Get: When can we open? What did he bring us? Is there anything more.
Parents try to instill the necessary recognition of those who won’t get and can’t give. Parents take 4 and 7 to the angel tree. Parents have 4 and 7 choose farm animals for other families. Still, when the eyes open on Dec. 25, 4 and 7 think only of what the wrapping paper obscures.
Parents want 4 and 7 to develop more empathy and awareness of stupendous good fortune, but parents are also immensely grateful that 4 and 7 are immune, at least for today. What on a dark night of the parenting soul appears 21st century pixellated greed, under soft colored retro-round Christmas tree bulbs is revealed as the simple, happy pleasure of receiving.
I’m old, Father William. But not so old that I can’t properly receive; not so jaded I can’t thrill at the get. This week my friend Danielle reminded me how much joy an unexpected gift can bring. As I sit on my living room couch one minute to 7, I indulge in a little stuff-ery, a small moment of “look what I have!”
A few posts back I wrote Low, during a month when I experienced several challenges on the personal/emotional front and couldn’t do much but mope and wring my hands. Good friends did what good friends do: brought meals and chocolate, sent texts and e-mails, babysat my kids. And Danielle made me a gorgeous little box, a visual expression of the words I dramatically splatted up here on your screen.
I’m sure all of you re-read my posts to the extent you can quote them back at me, but in case you’ve forgotten, I wrote about my excessive editing that week. “If I whittle anymore, I’ll be left with five blank sheets and a pile of words on the floor demanding a dustpan.”
See the little housewife and her broom? See those words she’s sweeping? There I am! Those are my words!
How lovely is that? I mean, seriously. Danielle took my words and made of them an image, three-dimensional and tactile, filling a square and sturdy cigar box. I’m not sure I’ve ever received a more thoughtful gift, one that made me feel not only appreciated, but also read. Plus it looks cool sitting atop a pile of old books.
I wear a rectangular aquamarine on my wedding finger because I, in typical Batmom/ADD fashion, lost my wedding ring. Down the drain, under the radiator, in the beak of a burglaring crow … god knows. The aquamarine, no second-stringer, substitutes beautifully.
My grandmother gave the ring to my mother when my mother was 21. My mother gave it to me when I was in my 20s. I am not a jewelry kind of a girl (travel travel eat read travel, please!), but I love the ring because I love my mother and I loved my grandmother. Also, it’s the birthstone of my felines, The Cat and The Grey.
Shakespeare the Stuffed
This guy swings from the branches of our Christmas tree every year, and while I like him as much as the next ornamental mister, I love what he represents: My friend Rene’s devotion to the well-chosen gift. She has given me a number of velvety ornaments from England, all picked with me in mind, as well as excellent reads (The Book Thief, The League of Extraodinary Gentlemen) and personalized comic-centric art.
The Monk on the Shelf
Keep your smiley, spying elves! I’ve got a monk. In one hand, he holds a book. Hidden behind his back, he clutches a bottle of wine. Poet B gave me the monk long ago; the holy brass man once belonged to a professor and now reminds me that the best days include good words and a quaff.
Rich is my self-confidence and my focus. I’m a flibbertigibbet who needs grounding; He grounds me and is relentless about his desire to see me pursue my desires.
When we first moved up to Mass., he tracked down Gertrude Stein’s Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas in its original form: serialized in the Atlantic Monthly in the early 30s. I wrote about the book, and several others, in my graduate school thesis. This gift’s exact perfection has always symbolized Rich’s belief in what I can do, and his dedication to helping me do it.
Happy New Year. May 2013 bring you great gifts and the grace to receive them well.