Thursday, December 18, 2003

The Magic Season

It's that magical season again, a time of gift giving and gift receiving.

As I get older, the two-sided coin of gift giving and receiving has become more and more worn. It's hard to find the shiny spots anymore. Somewhere along the way, giving gifts has become a chore (or at best, another item on my to-do list). And receiving gifts hasn't gotten any easier.

My wife and I have developed a highly sensible approach for the holiday season. We simply tell each other what we'd like. This starts as early as Labor Day. By the time I buy gifts, which I now do almost exclusively on-line, it's a matter of crossing items off a very detailed list (often with catalog and item numbers). We rarely surprise one another nowadays and this makes me wistful.

I like to think I'm a very gracious gift receiver, but somewhere along the line, I started making enough money to buy myself my own gifts. If I find myself wanting a music CD, or a book, or a new computer part, I buy it. I don't wait for a holiday, or my birthday, or my anniversary.

At work, a bunch of us were grousing about how competitive gift giving can become. The secret Santas. The price limits. Who gave what to whom. Gifts become a measure of the giver and the recipient. "Oh, he can afford to give that. Oh, he deserved that; he's out of work." Instead of sentiment, it's judgment.

Since we have a daughter, Jenn and I have returned to simpler emotions regarding the holidays. Mia's at an age where handing her packing tape is a cause for high celebration, and we can't wait for her to open the myriad of gifts that we bought her. In her squeals of delight, in her simple eagerness to tear away the wrapping paper, I remember that gifts symbolize love and generosity. "I'm thinking of you." "I love you."

I think receivers and givers should remember that this magical season.

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