Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A decked-out door

A decked-out door
Originally uploaded by norvegal

It's December 22nd and I'm all baked, boiled, and wrapped out. While the chickadees take turns swooping on and off the bird feeder, snow is falling - giant puffs as if someone's been emptying a down pillow from above the clouds.

The cat gave up on trying to get my attention and has resumed his post on the living room floor. I don't know what he appreciates more, the fact that his bowl is always full or that the house has radiant floor heating.

And in the background, after a weeklong Christmas music bender on Pandora, Johnny Cash sings "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry." Somehow it all fits together.

I adore this time of year - the colors and lights and smells and decorations everywhere, the moody weather, and the nesting and introspection it inspires. Every year, I go into December feeling grateful for the opportunity to express my love and appreciation for those near and dear to me. I vow to do things differently, to give only things that are genuine to me, to resist the industrial shopping complex.

And then somehow I start to slip. I look at my tins of homemade cookies and bags of brightly wrapped caramels, all made with sincere love and goodwill, and I think..."This person wants an iPad and I'm sending honey bars?!" Usually by the second week I give in and start clicking away. Random crap starts to replace the sincere and heartfelt, I feel somehow cheapened by the whole experience, and then I spend the rest of the year paying off my Visa bill.

This year I didn't do it - I couldn't do it. With the exception of nieces and nephews for whom years of therapy would be necessary to treat the trauma of not getting one of the 20 items they meticulously detailed on their wish lists, everybody else got something from the heart. I'm sure disappointment abounds, but that's just the way it is. And I feel just a little bit better about the whole thing.

It's getting crazy. And you want to know what drives me the most nuts? Those car ads on TV. You know, the one where the husband surprises his beautiful and perfectly clad wife on Christmas day by leading her to the door, where she discovers a brand new Lexus with a big red bow parked out front?

My question: Who buys someone a CAR as a Christmas present? (And how can I become that person's friend?) Yet from the abundance of ads on TV, you'd think it was the most common thing in the world. What message does that send to the 99.9% of the populace that does not wake up and discover a new BMW 5-series wagon in the garage?

One of my favorite holiday movies is Mixed Nuts. It's a sweet little Nora Ephron film featuring a blonde Steve Martin, a gorgeous Madeline Kahn, a knitting Rita Wilson, a crossdressing Liev Schreiber, and a yet-unknown Jon Stewart on rollerblades - plus many cameos from other fine people. The plot itself is predictably goofy but welcome at this time of year.

Near the end, Steve Martin's character is trying to lure a gun-wielding Santa costume-wearing Anthony LaPaglia off the roof of a building (as I said, goofy plot) and he says something to the effect that Christmas is that time of year when we view our lives under a microscope, and everything we don't have feels that much bigger. I find that to be extremely true, and those car ads sure don't help the situation.

So I shut off the TV, preheat my oven, pull out the butter to soften, and bring the focus back home.

But in case you were wondering, there's plenty of room in the driveway for that BMW. And could I have the one with the heated steering wheel?


rosi-r said...

Oh dear Clara, I truly love you and your written word. I wish you everything you truly want this season.


sprboston said...

I agree well said. Clara, a while back I stopped filling a felt santa sack" for each of my nieces/nephews in lieu of a single, thoughtful gift. It's all become too much. As I get older, I'm realizing that this is what I want to give. I think we can start a movement! Imagine a thoughtful gift from our own hands or hearts!

purlewe said...

I also have the same problem. The gifts I give are not usually the ones they want.. home made, home baked, or bought from a local indy store. Not the flash and dazzle of the other stuff. but I think I am making traditions in my own way. And in the long run people will appreciate it more. Like your grandma? She made those fruitcakes just for you, and now you think of her very fondly. :) it is the love that shines thru.

Lou said...

Well put, Clara. I'm happy to say the gifts that garnered the most attention of my young nieces and nephews were the cute, animal washcloths my mom handknitted. :-)

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful description of what's important this time of year. Clara, you write so beautifully and clearly that I always love to read what you have written. I wish you had time to write more blog entries. Merry Christmas and a Wonderful New Year!

Adrienne Martini said...

Happy Christmas, Clara. May you get all that you truly desire - and I suspect it's not a box from Jared.

SandyH said...

"May you get all that you truly desire - and I suspect it's not a box from Jared."

LOL! Unless it's a box from Jared Flood, aka Brooklyn Tweed, full of his new yarn!

mathiemom said...

I am so with you on the falsehood of consumer/acquisition-based happiness. Even the few who actually are at the receiving end of that BMW don't experience more than a very transient joy, because at their level of affluence they've come to expect such lavish gifts. And everybody else feels like there's something wrong with them.

Have a wonderful holiday, Clara. Bask in the love of family, the delicious sweetness of treats made with love, and the warmth of the fire in the fireplace and cozy hand knit sweaters and wraps.

Melissa said...

I make some gifts and give favorite books (2nd hand paperbacks or bargain scores) to most friends & family, and I try to stay out of malls & large stores in December. But one of our best choices is one I now take for granted - we don't have a television, haven't for 30 years and I sure don't miss holiday ads! They can't shape my expectations if they can't reach me.

(If you want to know, this year's book is The Light Years by Elizabeth Jane Howard - book 1 of 4 in the Cazalet Chronicle.)

debd94 said...

I am so impressed, because I try to avoid being influenced by the commercial machine every year too, but this year I ran out of time for knitting and baking gifts. Online shopping became my friend, but I'm finding it much harder to get into the holiday spirit as a result. Your experience this year is a model for me, for next year. I did finish a hat for my 13 year old daughter, which I feel good about (and she's actually wearing it).

Mel said...

The nieces and nephew know by now that they can expect way cool t-shirts from me - inexpensive, but unique and thoughtful enough to maintain my favorite uncle status. Adult relatives generally get my love and affection, which really is enough in my family. As Martha says, it's a good thing.

Janelle said...

Right on, sister!
I love your approach to gift giving. Stay true to yourself.
Merry, merry Christmas, Clara!

kelli ann said...

'Mixed Nuts' is a U.S. remake of a French film called 'Le Père Noël est une ordure' -- which has cult status (something i have never understood). And Thierry Lhermitte's remark about the sweather that Anémone knits for him is my hubby's reaction to ALL of my knitting, ever. Grr. He says, 'Oh:: a dust rag!'

One Stitch at a Time said...

I too am turned off by the consumerism that has become the month of December. It's a challenge to not get caught up in the pressure but persevere.
Be true to your inner voice during the Holiday Season,Dear Clara.I wish there were more people in the world with your sensibilities and values.
Merry Christmas and a Very Happy New Year to you.

artsyfish said...

I think you struck a nerve!

As election day approaches I think how nice it will be to not see candidates ads on TV. This year I thought how nice it would be not to see Christmas ads on TV - especially Target's. For some reason they seem most prevalent this year.

My Christmas was spent with friends, both old and new(ish) - and that's the way it should be!


theatreknitter said...

You couldn't be more right. This year i did very little shopping. The majority of the gifts that i gave were knit. a lovely cowl for one sister, gloves for another, a hat for mom. I was overwhelmed with their generosity and felt a little taken a back because i felt that I had given so little. Then again, when i realized that one of them received a gift made out of madelintosh and the other a lovely alpaca silk. . . I realized the value of that to another knitter. I'll stick to knitted gifts, though I may start the knitting earlier next year so that I can give something with a little more substance. Mom is getting a cape next year. . .