Every year I twist myself into a moral maze of ordinary human bitchiness that is eventually understood but never quite figured out, if you know what I mean.
I never seem to get what I want. And I persist in thinking I'm going to. I'm talking relatively stupid stuff here, not love, a place in the world or a reason to live. Not good health and no regrets, an end to the war, a fking job. I'm talking pedicure kits and Borders gift cards.
I used to cringe when my mother would groan upon opening another scarf, rose-shaped pin, stuffed animal or rosary. "What am I supposed to do with that?" I cringed because I grokked all too well the disappointment, anger and yes, hurt, that comes from not being understood. Of course, in my family, getting the wrong gift was equal to not being loved. "If you loved me, you'd know what I want. You would have heard me, seen me, listened to me. But you didn't, so you don't."
Really, sometimes the thought doesn't count at all. And that is because the thought was not for her. Or, now that she's dead and I have to claim my inheritance, me.
I could see her point. Old people are living on time and need time and should be given gifts of time. This includes experiences (being taken out of the home); stamps, ephemera: magazines that can be enjoyed and thrown away, for example; wine, food and flowers; massages, gift cards and light sweaters that button down and only if their existing sweaters are stained, which they probably are.
As if the people who love us are actually not people but fairy godmothers. Santa Clauses that read minds and have endless imagination.
Here's another thought I'm grateful to have had. What if we really do get what we give? That would mean I'm the one not reading your mind, not exercising imagination all year, day after day. Now there's a thought that counts.
The thought. Actually, the thought is starting to mean something to me. There's probably a decade coming of the thought being the important thing, maybe less as I'm not all that emotionally evolved, but we'll see. My sister is a good person who, despite our advanced years, continues to see herself as my protector. I'm convinced that this is why she does for me rather than with me. As in, "I'll paint your kitchen. Don't touch anything." Years ago, I'd have shrugged and left her to it. But this year, when she painted my kitchen (and this, I should add, is one hell of a Christmas present and exactly what I wanted AND needed, take back the purple satin pencil case and the pendant of an obscure Irish saint) I was quite desperate to get in there with her and learn all she had to pontificate on, I mean teach me about, the job. So I stayed put and did as I was told, when she told me to do it.
It is not the thought that someone had to throw you a gift you're only going to recycle, it's the thought that they had of you and of their hand stretched out, laden, in your direction. I know this because by the time Christmas, and the gift giving, getting, and worrying, was all over, I'd forgotten that I was ever as angry as I was. The irritation is gone, replaced by humor and a little spiteful but cleansing re-gifting.