Tis’ the season

– by Jeffrey Lawrence – 

As we approach that time of year where gifts are given, credit limits are stretched, and everyone scrambles on a quest to find that perfect gift for their loved ones, I am drawn to think of what would be the perfect present for my three-year-old nephew. He’s not quite three yet, but he will be a week before Christmas, which adds another layer of gift seeking to the mix.

I’m not someone who’s big on gifts. Or in another way of looking at it, I’m someone who’s very hard to get gifts for. Because I judge. To me a gift symbolizes how much someone knows, or doesn’t know, about me. And likewise when I give a gift it’s usually something that really speaks to me about a person. So it stands to reason that I give truly awesome gifts, or so I’d like to believe.

I decided to make some time to spend with my nephew to get a handle on what he really likes. What toys he plays with, what shows he watches, what he likes to do. Sitting on the couch beside him while he casually drank down his bottle of milk, and stared at a number of seemingly random cartoons on the screen didn’t really give me a good idea of what he’d like. Because what he seemed to like was trying to stick his foot into my pockets. He’d sneakily try to slide his foot in, I’d catch him and tickle his foot as a penalty, and after a little time had past, the process would begin again.

Of course, it escalated. His foot approached more assertively, as well as tried other routes, pant legs, sleeves and whatever that area the bottom of a T-shirt is called. The ‘penalty’ would likewise escalate, from mere foot tickles to all out mock clawed leg and belly attacks. Before too long he was laughing gleefully, and so was I. The television got turned off and we’d take out couch cushions to create makeshift slides for him to slide down, then run circles around the dining room table, chase the cats, and make silly faces at each other while strange and possibly rude noises escaped from behind pursed lips.

What struck me was how he smiled. That big, controlled grin with lit up and dancing eyes. Which is the very look I think we aspire toward when someone opens our gift to them. One would think that I’m probably going to say here that ‘the best gift to a child is your time’. I just did, and I think it is, but that’s not my point. That look. You know that look? That look is the look everyone gets when they get a present, even me.

Everyone gets happy and excited by receiving a present. So I have to wonder about the importance we place on the contents of that present. I mean, not just the receiver’s reaction but the giver’s reaction to the receiver’s reaction, then everyone else’s reactions to those reactions – creating a de facto christmas chain-reation of potentially catastrophic consequences.

“The joy is in the giving.”

It’s also in the receiving, mind you, but it truly is in the giving. Not in the looking at their reaction. Not in the how much they like your gift – though that’s a nice bonus. That joy is felt when you see that sparkle in their eye, that twinkle in highly commercial Santa Claus popsters. That joy is in the giving.

So this Christmas, I’m opening all my presents in private.

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