Monday, December 27, 2010

How Was Your Holiday?

How was your holiday? And by holiday, I mean Christmas? I don't know about you, but I'm always a little startled these days when someone who doesn't know me at all wishes me a merry Christmas, or asks how my Christmas was. But at the same time, I kind of like it, because it seems so, well, rebellious. We all know that we are meant to say HOLIDAY as a way of avoiding insensitivity toward other faiths, which is fine, except that now I exclusively say holiday just as a reflex, which is kind of too bad.

Anyway, my Christmas was quite nice. Really no "buts" here. Last year, there were some "buts." My Christmas was nice, but my front tooth had broken, and it broke some more during Christmas dinner, so I had to get up in the middle of the meal and get some Super Glue to put it back on, in addition to which my sister was recovering from surgery and my boyfriend had been sick and had to get out to the suburbs in the snow in a ZipCar.

No such buts here. Everyone was healthy, present and accounted for. I felt very lucky for that.

There were a couple of moments, of course. Not buts. Maybe alsos.

My aunt defied the Thanksgiving pact stating that none of us would bring gifts for extended family this year. She brought gifts for everyone -- everyone except my boyfriend. My uncle saw his wife deliver my gift to me and said to her (as if the bf and I were not within earshot), "Did you get gifts for..." and yanked his head unsubtly toward my bf and my brother's girlfriend. My aunt looked flummoxed for a moment, then recovered with a cleverly worded reply. "Yes, I got gifts for all the kids!" she answered him triumphantly. There was no gift for my bf -- but then, he's not one of "the kids."

My gift was a lidded tea mug that looked ceramic, but claimed to have Thermos-like properties that kept the inner contents hot while keeping the outside cool to the touch. "I got it for you because I know how much you love to drink tea," my aunt enthused as though we'd talked about my beverage preferences at length, when in fact she has no way of knowing whether I drink tea. I mean sure, yes, I do drink tea. But how odd that she gave me this gift based on a pretense that could be entirely false, for all she knew! And we had agreed no gifts...

My dad had gotten my mom a set of wireless speakers to put around the house, because he'd noticed that she listens to music when he's not around. "I noticed that you always listen to music when I play golf," he said by way of explanation as she opened it.

"What? When you play golf? I don't listen to music when you play golf," she said in the unnecessarily offended way that only people who have been married 40-plus years can use with each other -- in the way that suggests there are years, RIVERS really, of transgressions buried here in this seemingly innocuous exchange that you as a bystander know nothing about.

"Yes you do, when I come back from golf, you're always playing music on your computer," my dad persisted. She finally got what he was saying, sort of.

"He was being thoughtful, mom," I said later.

"I just didn't understand what he meant! I thought he was saying that I play music when we go out golfing together, and I never do that!" she said. To be fair, my mom is a little too accustomed to my dad being -- well, not thoughtful.

When a gift-giver is truly thoughtful -- in other words, actually thinking about what you might want, instead of just giving a token prize, or worse, giving what s/he really wants -- it's a wonderful thing. But sometimes the gift-giver is thoughtful toward a version of you that does not exist; or existed 10 years ago but no longer does; or exists now, but has not been properly verified. And so we can't see the thoughtfulness, because we're staring at the petrified trees of old resentments and habits.

The tea mug, by the way, gets unmanageably hot within about a minute of being filled with boiling water, just like a regular mug would, except that this mug doesn't have a handle (because, you know, it has double insulation), which renders it nearly useless.

Still, my aunt had been so psyched about giving it to me. And it really was very thoughtful. So I will probably keep trying to use it, depending on how many burns my hands can withstand.

My dad is in charge of the stockings at Christmas. This year he included the customary Ban roll-on at the bottom of my stocking, which is an inexplicable family in-joke (and not related to anything regarding my personal hygiene), even though I now have more Ban than I'll ever be able to use. He also got me a copy of Rolling Stone, which I haven't read in about 10 years, but subscribed to from my teens through my 20s.

In previous years, he has given me investing magazines, even though I'd taken a 10-year hiatus from stocks and I never read investing magazines. He was remembering that time in the '90s when I was excited about stocks.

But what I love about these magazines is that (and this is going to sound pathetic, but I try always to remain true to the spirit of this blog) they tell me I am seen. I am seen in a kind of blurry, Coke-bottle way, but when it comes to my dad, I'll take it. Besides, I liked catching up with Rolling Stone. It was kind of like visiting an old friend who got too annoying to hang out with, but had some redeeming qualities you'd forgotten.

Basically, that's all anybody wants from a gift: The sense that the giver sees you.

Did your holiday come with any buts or alsos?

1 comment :

Rosie said...

I ALWAYS say "Merry Christmas" and hope that no one is offended. A " Happy Hanukkah," "Happy Kwanza," or "Happy Winter Solstice" in response would make my day!

How is the mug workin out for ya?