One week from now the presents will already be opened, the wrapping in the recycle bins, ribbons and candy canes about the sitting room, perhaps an ornament or two fallen off the tree, the dining room will have the remnants of the leftover holiday meal, the children may have already forgotten some of their new toys and went to sleep with their old faithful teddy bear, and some people will already be lining up outside the retail stores to pick up even more stuff.
The shopping frenzy took our nation by storm, as it does every Black Friday, and for a month we have been bombarded with television, radio, internet, newspaper, and mailbox ads touting one store's midnight madness or better-than-black-friday sale. And the purpose of it all? To do what Americans do - shop. To get, conquer (only five in the store, come early for the best bargains!!!!!) and acquire even more things that are meaningless, take up space, and do not fill the void that rests like an insatiable black hole.
I went out the day after Thanksgiving, not at the unholy hour of 3am or even 5am, to start getting things for the busy December. I also went out to study the crowd, my once-a-year market research, harking back to the times of my full-time marketing career. I talked to a few people who only had one or two things in their hands and gave up because the lines were stretching in and out of aisles around the store. It was at the fifth stop that we finally joined the people waiting in queque to part with their hard earned, recession-proof??? dollars.
December brings my families the last birthday of the year (my youngest child and baby girl), plays (my son performs), the symphony and choir concert (my husband sings), play group parties (me),program community outreach events (my summer gig) and school traditions parties (my daughters) so I definitely had reason to be in the stores bargaining with myself over the virtues of the new Princess and the Frog jazz band set versus the new Best Friends Club dolls. And I have a grandson due on January 1st so off to the stores I went.
Something struck me last evening as I pulled out all these unwrapped packages and sorted them on my bed. My girls have a lot of toys. They really do, I just spent an hour the other day supervising them packing away their older dolls to go on vacation (to make room for the new ones I just bought!) and their books to make way for the the new ones that will promise adventures between the pages. I wondered, do they really need all this stuff? My baby just finished a lesson of need and want in kindergarten, the little ones understand the difference. What would happen if there was really only one gift under the tree?
I am blessed in that my children are not greedy little whinners who feel entitled to every new thing. Each one of them only mentioned one thing that they really, really wanted. I always purchase books and they always get a refreshing of clothes for the rest of the winter. And we already talked to them about how other people do not have anything and the girls eagerly helped pick out toys and things for a little girl in foster care. My baby even used her sixth birthday as a way to get her friends involved, some even came with two gifts - one for my daughter and one for the little girl. The elementary schools in my little suburb have collected thousands and thousands of food items for families in our community who are not in the stores shopping like crazy.
The children will be out of school beginning Wednesday, some districts already started their holiday break with Friday being the last day. There are traditions of visiting families, perhaps attending services like The Drummer Boy or a play at the Fox or witnessing The Black Nativity at Grandel Theatre or the annual Gospel Christmas at Powell Symphony Hall. Many families use this season to give even more to others, volunteering to send presents to the troops overseas spending yet a 8th Christmas in war, or the many new families affected by the myriad of layoffs.
In one week, all the frenzy to get, get, get so there is something to open under the tree will give way to was it all worth it? What will change because of more stuff? Did they get what they wanted? Many will be lining up to snatch up boxes of ornaments, rolls or wrapping paper, and bags of ribbons to store away for the 2010 season as the stores are already reviewing the plan-o-gram for the Happy New Year, Valentine's Day, and Mardi Gras trinkets that will soon vie for our attention. Even more stuff to entice away the gold coins.
My children will receive their gifts with joy and gladness like they always do. The baby will be her joyous "I'm happy to be me" wonderful self. They will continue their everyday activities and for a few days, moments, be really excited about their new gifts, especially if my daughter gets that Easy Bake Oven she is pining for or the Leapster the six year old wants or the skinny jeans the teenager wants.
What do I want? Just the quiet, a good book, a strong cup of coffee, peace, and the easy smiles of a a few weeks watching my children's delight. I couldn't think of one material thing I really, really wanted. Perhaps the trade paper version of the Hemsingses of Monticello since my book club is reading that in a few months. Maybe some cool looking knee socks so my legs will stay warm this cold season, maybe a new pashmina to keep my neck warm, but these are all things I can live without, nothing I am really pining over or looking in the shop windows like an eager child hoping, just hoping that Santa will bring what I want. No, the things I want are beyond material.
One week, just seven days. What will Christmas bring to you?