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Grapevine Shopping and Christmas Musings I

October 4, 2012

I took the shuttle to Historic Grapevine yesterday – basically a street filled with gift shops and antique stores but I had to limit myself due to suitcase packing restrictions. I purchased only a small heart ornament for valentine decorating and something else which I can’t share at this time (can you say Christmas present?) Instead I’ll share some thoughts I wrote about Christmas gifting a few years ago: 

Our extended family is pretty far flung across the United States and we don’t see them that often but we feel their presence every day through their Christmas presents.   I thought it was a coincidence that the words presents and presence sounded the same but, in fact, they do seem to have the same roots. When I stand in my kitchen I feel the presence of my nephew Vince as I look at the first Christmas present he ever sent us, an ornament that was such an attractive shape I hung it in our kitchen rather than on the tree.  Hanging right below it is the pottery ornament of our building that my niece Regina made for our first Christmas in our condo.  When I make my coffee I scoop it out of a coffee tin given to me by my nephew Greg with a scoop given to me by my brother in law Allen.  My sister and brother in law from Seattle have a great love for Alaska inuit art and it seems as if they have given us a piece of themselves every time I look at the inuit design dish towel and potholder hanging in our kitchen.  We have a few breadboards now but our favorite is the first one we ever got. It was a gift from my sister in law, Peggy, and it is the perfect size for a loaf of bread – my husband cuts his bread on it every morning.  When we look up to see if we are running late the clock we look at is a wonderful one my parents gave us for our first Christmas in our first apartment.  And I have only described some of the gifts I can see when I am standing at my sink – my house is full of the meaningful gifts I have received and it is not only the gifts but the memories of those who have given them that enrich our lives.  


For me gifts are about connections.  Someone was thinking about me when they made or bought a gift and I think about them as I look at, eat, or use the gifts.  My mother is from England and when I was a little girl, I didn’t see my English grandmother very often but every Christmas we got one of those “brown paper packages tied up with string” and one of the best parts of Christmas was opening the package to find a beautifully hand knitted gift.  Of course, it is not only the presents I have received that remind me of my family’s presence.  I also think of them all year as I find or search for the perfect gifts for them. 


So I was as horrified as she was when my friend Shannon told me about the tradition in her new husband’s family.  On Thanksgiving all the members of his family drew names to determine which one person they would buy their only Christmas present for.  A large expensive present, I might add and not really a thoughtful or meaningful one since as soon as the names were drawn people began putting in their orders – “Whoever got me, I want a set of luggage” for example.  Since this was my introduction to the concept of name drawing, I had a strong negative reaction when my nephew (of the beautiful Christmas ornament that hangs in my kitchen) and his new wife suggested we draw names instead of getting everyone presents.  I think I went on and on about how the tradition is to exchange presents not just to get a present but I don’t think I conveyed that for me the gift is so much more than the present.  


It is the connections that are forged when gifts are exchanged that I think is important. One year my daughter gave her young cousin a “cherry” barrette  – not expensive at all but it reflected my daughter’s style and I bet her young cousin thought of her every time she wore it.  I know my daughter thinks of her cousin as she hangs the handmade star ornament she received in exchange on her Christmas tree each year. 


It is important to note that I do not think presents exchanged between extended family members  should be expensive and that I think handmade and homemade presents are often the best.  One year my sister in law transcribed and typed up her grandmother’s diary for each of her siblings.  Now that’s a present!  And while I have heard of some interesting alternatives to giving everyone a gift – my nephew’s new wife’s family has a Yankee Swap that sounds like fun.  I am glad though that she hasn’t proposed that our family do such a thing since I love getting her homemade apple butter and blueberry jam and thinking of her each time I spread jam on my toast.   

From → Christmas, Collecting

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