Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas loot

I think, as a Miser Mom, I'm supposed to do a rant against the commercialization of Christmas.  And I suppose also I ought to point to non-consumptive strategies like pulling a name from a hat, or giving gifts only to children, or some similar plan.

But I'm outing myself: I love our giant gift extravaganza.  The 19 people in my family spent the ENTIRE day exchanging gifts yesterday.  (Since our family is full of math geeks, I'll offer this calculation:  if each of the 19 people gets one gift for each of the other 18 people, that's 342 gifts we're talking about!  sheesh!)  We started opening presents at 9 a.m., took breaks for lunch and dinner, and finished about 8:30 p.m. We took turns, youngest to oldest, round robin, oohing and ahhing over each other's creativity and insight.  We wore Santa hats and blinking lightbulb necklaces and ties that chimed Christmas carols.   It's the kingdom of kitsch, and I love it.

The boys were amazingly focused and intent -- they unwrapped a few bionicles early on and spent the time in between their turns assembling the wicked creatures and then posing them for battle.  The teenagers (well, actually they're now all in their 20's) fretted and fussed to see how their own gifts went over.  The adults all told funny stories about times past and about our current lives.  We traded tales about local craft markets or about making things by hand.  We guffawed over internet catalog discoveries.

It's not the price of the gifts that make them work.

  • K-daughter got my husband laundry detergent (it's sort of a family joke how much he loves doing laundry), and that was his favorite gift.  She also made some highly coveted bowls out of old vinyl records she had gotten for free.
  • My nephew got me a dozen canning jars that he'd decorated with a cow stencil -- that gift is now on my list of all-time favorites for creativity.  
  • I-daughter knitted and crocheted hats, mittens, and a bag-out-of-plastic-bags.  These are treasures.
  •  The wax-covered pine cones I made for my dad were my favorite gift to give, because they connect my old math professor, my mom's lessons on solar energy, and my dad's fireplace together (long story; trust me).  
  • My dad got my very academic daughter a Thinker's Thesaurus (we looked up "miserly" and found "cheeseparing" and "mingy").  
What makes these gifts "work" isn't their cost; it's the story that goes with each gift.  Each gift, each here's-why-I-thought-you'd-like-this, is another thread connecting each of us, one to another.  And that's why a mingy Miser Mom loves her over-the-top Christmas day.

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