I’m guessing no one wrote a new Christmas carol for 2020. However, the lyrics could have included “we’ll all be home for Christmas” and “All I want for Christmas is an Amazon card.”
Some of us skipped the normal holiday niceties.
Who had money for gifts and decorations? We were all busy boosting up the stock market and building our toilet paper empires.
This year if you show up at Christmas without a bundle of toys, you can always say your gifts are stuck in a cargo container in Long Beach.
The tradition of giving gifts has changed in my family, mostly because we are older. We all have credit cards and we know how to push buttons to make things appear in cardboard boxes on our doorsteps. If I tried to guess what my mom really needed or wanted, she probably already has it on her online lists.
Childhood, of course, is another universe. Back in a simpler time, before our phone could talk and people still answered the door for carolers, our parents would let us wake them up before sunrise for “Christmas carnage.” After the great unveiling, there was so much garbage on the living room carpet that the place looked like a crime scene.
Mom knew we were greedy little goblins and rode the tide of quantity vs. quality. We delighted in a giant mound of presents, which took so long to unwrap my folks needed to drink two cups of coffee before going back to bed. Mom got in the habit of buying daily necessities and wrapping underwear and socks in beautiful plastic wrap. We did not recycle. Our stockings would overflow with toothbrushes, hair barrettes and crayons.
Hidden among these things she would buy us anyway, we usually found our heart’s desire.
Our family has gone through a lot of trends since childhood. In my many impoverished years I made gifts and my family pretended they were quaint treasures. We experimented with drawing names, buying only for the kids, purchasing only edibles, gift swaps and white elephant exchange.
Last year was the pandemic, and Dad was dying of cancer. Many of us didn’t think about going to the mall.
However, I remember what it’s like to be a kid, so I made sure to buy for my niece and nephews, ages 11-15.
Like most kids these days, their hearts desire includes gift cards and more gift cards. Money, and even the plastic kind, is always the right size and the right color.
Don’t get me wrong. I like some gift cards, as long as they are given to me.
However, buying gift cards for children doesn’t fit with my sense of aesthetics. Plus, they’ll know how much I spent, rather than bargain shopping and pretending I am generous.
The kids’ mom worked very hard last year to convince the children to create wish lists on Amazon. I have a prejudice against Amazon because when I actually want to buy something, I like that stores with a front door and cash register still exist. However, 2020 was a year for compromise.
The kids approached the task of wish lists as if we had asked them to clean out the kitty litter box. They ignored repeated texts. If last year had a shipping bottleneck like 2021, they would have received nothing at all.
This year we had the same run-around, but their mom must have nagged for the lists starting on Veterans Day. I was glad to have some clues, but then I looked more closely.
My niece wanted books. Bright girl.
My niece is an artist, so I can understand the joy of watching a story unfold through images. Yet, when I looked at her selections I wondered if they are called “graphic novels” because of the method of narrative, or because of violent content. The gal on the book cover looks like she’s leaving the house to fight zombies or join a punk rock band.
All three of my younger family members had plush toys on their lists, which might mean cute and cuddly. Of course they were plush toys for the video games they play while disassociating from the adults.
Then there was my sweet, youngest nephew, who had eight items on his list, but only two that cost less than $200.
I bought the book, the video game and a plush toy. Maybe next year we won’t hassle with the list and I’ll become the aunt who gives savings bonds — or gift cards.