19 shopping days left, and I’m beginning to feel the pressure that my gifts are not up to snuff this year. Instead of running up and down the length of several crowded malls, getting exasperated and finally settling for something I hope my loved ones will like, but will most likely sit in the living room for a few weeks before getting buried in the back of a closet, I decided to take a different route this year.
I made a small donation to a charity I thought each of my people would vibe with: animals, the environment, supporting local businesses, you get the idea. I felt really good about it at first, filling out online forms and waiting for the cards to be sent in the mail. Then I spoke with my best friend who is hand-making all her gifts this year. I saw my mum making homemade Christmas crackers with personalized treats inside, putting together string art cards, knitting gloves, and baking the first of many Christmas treats. And I started to wonder if my little cards were enough.
But what makes a gift “enough”? Is it making the recipient smile? Finding something they really wanted? Proving I care about them? What am I trying to accomplish in giving someone a gift? Is it a genuine desire to make them happy? Or is it the fulfillment of an obligation, an annual chore I have to get done?
I tried to talk my mum out of getting me gifts this year, because I didn’t want her spending a lot of money on stuff I don’t need. Yet when I see the glitter in her eye as she wraps our gifts or mixes icing for cakes, I see how much fun she’s having and it hits me: this is how she shows her love. In poring over gifts and food, my mum is saying “I love you” to all of us. And that’s what a gift should be, an expression of love.
I say “I love you” in hugs and poems and listening to peoples’ problems, which might explain why I often find it such a drag to go Christmas shopping. It doesn’t feel like love to me. Making someone a hot drink when they come in exhausted after a long day; that feels like love. Staying up to text someone at 2am while they work through a crisis; that feels like love. Sharing my blanket on the couch, letting someone have the first bite when we go to a restaurant, hearing their embarrassing stories and not judging them; that feels like love.
Elbowing my way through Black Friday crowds to get a DVD my dad probably won’t watch? Not so much.
Some people are fabulous gift givers, zeroing in on the perfect presents – something unique and unexpected that speaks to who the person is and what they love to do. It’s beautiful, and I envy these people. As much as I try, Christmas morning probably won’t be the time when I shine. That’s okay. It’s only natural and appropriate my mum takes centre stage then, and there’s no need for me to compete with her. I say “I love you” in other ways. And what Christmas is about to me, more than anything, is letting each other know that we’re loved.
So I don’t plan on getting stressed out over giving the right presents or the most expensive presents this year. I plan on showing the people around me how much I love them. And that will be more than enough.