Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Gingerbread Men, Matchbox Cars, and M & M's

     Last year, like many, many years before (too many - and this year is the DEFINITE, clear exception to too too many years), my overriding feelings before and about Christmas were akin to that of "The Grinch."  As I mentioned, it isn't because I am not a religious or kind person. It is, in fact, because I simply feel too much pressure to "perform", and am SO afraid of disappointing people. I feel like I am the world's WORST gift giver, that everyone I give gifts to, especially my kids, will be secretly  - or NOT so secretly - disappointed and think, "wow, she really sucks at knowing what I would like," even though every year I try REALLY hard to get it "just right."  I also hate the HUGE expenditure of money, preferring instead the smaller, more meaningful aspects of the season: baking cookies and fudge, watching seasonal Christmas specials together (my favorite? "The Little Drummer Boy." I STILL cry when the donkey gets run over by the cart.), creating handmade or a specially selected gift that has meaning, not just money, behind it. 
     I am not really sure where the biggest change of heart has come from this year, or whether it is maybe more a series of small things, but in thinking about it all, I remember clearly something from last year, that has carried over into this year, two things, really.
     About this time last year, I had posted on my Facebook page a status that was a quote directly from the movie, "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas":    
"The avarice never ends! "I want golf clubs. I want diamonds. I want a pony so I can ride it twice, get bored and sell it to make glue." Look, I don't wanna make waves, but this *whole* Christmas season is (shouts)  stupid, stupid, stupid! "  It generated a lot of comments - people who shared my feelings, people who kidded me about not being in the Christmas spirit quite yet, etc.  But the one comment that really resonated, for some odd reason, was one left by a former classmate from elementary and high school .He mentioned that he remembed that when we were in 5th grade, a matchbox car and a bag of M and M's made me pretty happy.  Must have been a classroom gift exchange all those years ago, and for one thing, I was totally blown away to think he REMEMBERED giving me a Matchbox car all those years ago. Seriously, who remembers what you did when you were ten???  And, I was really warmed by the fact that he did remember that, and that he chose to share the gift of that memory with me. THAT sort of thing is what means a lot to me at Christmas...
So last year, late in the season , I bought a couple of Matchbox cars, and put them on my desk at school, to remind me of the simple things that mean the most to me, and to remind me of the gift of friendship that Mark and I still share, all these years later (hmm, 37 or 38 years later? Instead of making me feel old, I simply feel blessed that I have friendships that have endured so many years)   This year? To repay him for the gift of "saving Christmas" for me last year, and the daily reminder of his gift of friendship over this past year, I am sending him this:

Anonymously. To his school address (he is a teacher, too.) I think he will probably "get" it, but it feels fun to me to do that. I feel a little like an elf.

     In addition, last year, another friend from the past (I used to babysit for him, his little brother and baby sister, and I ADORED them - I spent SO much time at their house with them when they were growing up) sent me an email and mentioned that he had hung the gingerbread ornament that I made for him for Christmas the year he was 9 on his tree again this year.I had no idea what he was talking about, so he took a picture of it and sent it to me:

I have no recollection of having made or given him that, but I do remember my "ceramics phase," so clearly I did!  I decided that since he is now married and has two little girls of his own, I'll send him a new "gingerbread man" ornament every year, also anonymously, also to HIS school, where he is a principal.  I am pretty sure he won't "get it," wont know it's from me, although he might. I thought about putting his name on it with a permanent marker or something, but decided that would be too much of a giveaway, and since I want the ornaments to be for his whole family, I decided to leave it as it is.  I've also decided that, after this year, I will make the ornament every year - felt, painted, whatever. This year, it was just sort of a spur of the moment idea when I saw this one, so...
It will have to do.
Both these things make me feel more giving, more lighthearted, more in the spirit of Christmas. Every year I seem to look hard for the real meaning of Christmas in little things. This year, two simple gifts from last year have carried me through the year, and on into the season this year. THOSE are the gifts that mean the most to me. This year, it's been easy.


Jennifer Montero said...

The Grinch taught me that "Christmas doesn't come from a store, Christmas (it seems) means a little bit more" All the Whos (in Whoville) were happy even without presents (OR roast beast).

All the best presents I've ever been given were homemade or small, thoughtful remembrances too.

I studied anthropology at Uni and we learned that the exchanging of gifts is an activity used to cement relationships NOT to increase personal wealth. The matchbox car and gingerbread ornament did just that, and I bet both those people (giver and recipient) get a warm feeling when they think about those exchanges.

Your post was filled with Christmas Spirit - hard to define, easy to recognise.

I'm a sucker for 'The Littlest Angel' book and any of the Rankin stop animation films. As soon as I see the Burl Ives snowman introducing the story, I feel like I'm 10 years old again.

Leigh said...

That is soo sweet! Seriously I wish I had some sort of memory or something special like. The best Christmas I ever had was when I was about Six years old. My parents had a big party and all my aunts uncles grandparents cousins and brothers were there. It was so special because that is the only time in my life that my entire family was has and will ever be in the same room together. As a child I remembered how loved I felt... but have you know I don't remember one Christmas gift. I think that we would all rather have something from the heart anyways, its the commercialism that teaches us that the heart isn't good enough. BUT as we both have seen for our own two eyes... the heart is what makes Christmas, Christmas and thats the only thing (heart) that will EVER be good enough. Merry Christmas, With Love from your friend,
Leigh ;)

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2 Tramps said...

Thanks for your thought provoking post. Seems we all have some baggage during this season - and it isn't all bad - some we want to continue to travel with always... It is the very smallest of things that can create a memory large enough to last forever.

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