Discover more from A Considerable Age
Where Are The Presents?
Christmas brings out the best and the worst in me.
I’ll get the worst over with first: I’ve already started worrying about that first Christmas when all I’m expected to do is wait for someone to pick me up and take me to dinner at someone else’s house. I’ll be propped up in a corner and, over the course of the afternoon, each person will make an obligatory visit and ask me questions in a tone which suggests I have lost my ability to understand English. If I get any gifts, they will be tea towels, Christmas candles, bath salts and chocolate-covered cherries.
This scenario isn’t far off and correctable, but things will need to change soon. I’m getting closer every year to that chair “over there.”
On the other hand, despite my years, I can still tap into the feelings I had as a child: an overwhelming excitement that made sleep almost impossible on Christmas Eve and turned a tree crammed with presents into a Christmas morning miracle.
My mother helped keep the holiday joy at a high pitch by always inventing some annual twist on gift-giving: one year, we had to perform for our gifts; another year, answers to riddles were required before a gift was given. My favourite was the year she numbered each gift, instead of attaching a name, so you would pick one and then keep the gift or give it away depending on her master list. But Mom misplaced the master list, so there was the extra task of guessing who the gift was for.
Even after I had my own family in Montreal, I often dragged the kids down to my parent’s home in Ohio just to get that hit of a big family Christmas. When you live away from your family, it’s often the only chance to experience the generations moving along: the youngers become the olders, new babies and kids entering the fray, the same meal is cooked every year but with different hands.
Now that most of my aunts, uncles and my parents have died, I usually stay in Montreal, where I have created a few of my own traditions. I try to force my now 47-year-old son and my granddaughter to watch The Christmas Story with me, the film about the little kid who wants a Red Rover BB gun for Christmas. If I still had the chance, I would laugh and snort every year as if it was the first time I ever watched it. But I’m outnumbered by a teen and mature adult, so it’s been years since I’ve had a good Christmas snort.
In a way, I’m watching Christmas shift away from me. I moved into a smaller, more sensible apartment and can’t accommodate more than five at the table. There’s barely any room for a Christmas tree. As a result, the festivities have shifted to my son’s house. Now there’s always talk about how Christmas is so close to the Thanksgiving turkey, and shouldn’t we do something else? Inevitably, with fewer people, things finish early, and I go home. Coming from a big family, I have no idea what one does alone on Christmas day, even for a few hours.
But my biggest question: What happened to all the presents I used to get? Is there some kind of taboo about people over sixty getting gifts? Even in my forties, I would walk away with a respectable pile. But now my poor son — who has often suggested we cut out the presents altogether — is on the hook for anything I receive. The exception is one gift from a family member – we draw names instead of buying for everyone.
I think after decades of showering other people with gifts, anyone over sixty should start “receiving” in a big way. The younger generation ought to pay it forward and buy something, not just for their parents, but for any elders in their lives. And care should be taken that no tea towels, bath salts or candles be purchased.
My vision of Christmas future is considerably less pathetic if I’m sitting in the corner surrounded by dozens of gaily-wrapped presents at my feet.