With Christmas just around the corner I am reminded of the hustle and bustle of the holiday; the long lines, the traffic and the crowds. Years ago I pretty much liberated myself from the stress and expense of Christmas shopping and card giving. Anyway, I’ve always preferred making gifts: cards and quilts, photo books, foods, original poems and stories. And friends and relatives will tell you that I've perfected the fine art of re-gifting.
Maybe I've fallen into these habits from being raised in a frugal family, one in which my father washed plastic wrap and draped it across the dish-drainer to dry and re-use. As the last of six kids, most of my clothes and toys were well-loved hand-me-downs. My favorite toys were my brothers' Hot Wheels, my sister’s ratty-haired troll dolls and a box of worn wooden blocks painted yellow, red, blue and green. I spent hours rummaging through a slouchy cardboard box full of my grandmother’s old clothes playing dress-up and I’d make forts out of woolen blankets draped across sagging couch cushions set on end.
The religious side of Christmas, although I was raised Catholic, was never emphasized by my parents past the ritual of attending mass with my Grandma or in the placing of the nativity scene that my mother unboxed, along with delicate glass balls, felt reindeer, creepy elves and half-melted Santa candles. She and I enjoyed decorating the tree with rain or icicles and the kind of light bulbs that should have set the tree aflame. I remember my parents receiving countless glittered greeting cards and I watched my mother's hand cramp up as she wrote, addressed and licked stamps for seemingly hundreds of her own to post. And every year for Christmas I asked for stuffed animals and salami. I loved salami.
At home now we still receive a handful of holiday greeting cards, and while many are void of any hand written message or signature, we're so glad to be thought of, though our favorites are the ones with personal sentiments (or dirty Santa jokes.)
Our son Calvin, by nature, is oblivious to Christmas, Santa Claus and presents. He wants for nothing more than to hang out at home with his mama and daddy, playing happily in
his johnny-jump-up, listening to his favorite music, and being lavished with gifts of tickles and kisses. The day passes like any other. And though we require none, Calvin's gift to us is his boundless love by way of his contagious giggles and warm hugs.
I guess Calvin landed in the right family because we tend to focus little on presents. We celebrate much like I did when I was a kid, with emphasis on the secular and the mere fact that the days are getting longer, with a few home made gifts and simple trinkets thrown in to the mix. We center our holidays at home just being together, then after we put Calvin to bed we enjoy quaffing the Kolster family's bourbon-eggnog, preparing a special meal, opening a nice bottle of red wine—or two—and relaxing in front of the fire. And if I'm lucky, at some point, I get to gnaw on a stick of salami.