This is shaping up to be a great Christmas here at Jasperwood. No one wants anything. No one needs anything.
So, shopping was pretty easy.
But shop you must. I went on Amazon - and there’s the distinction that makes it less satisfying; you go to the store, but you go on Amazon - and hoovered up some things that would make my wife’s work-at-home regime incrementally better. I picked up some items at the big-box hardware store, which has a nifty “As Seen on TV!” section. Never could quite get the appeal, exactly. You know what else was seen on TV? THE VIETNAM WAR, PAL.
Daughter’s easy, but her stocking is hard. How do you stuff the stocking of a 20-year old? Perhaps . . . perhaps you don’t. Perhaps you make the decision this year not to add a few items for tradition’s sake. I remember the year when my stocking by the fireplace was slack and flaccid on Christmas Morn, and I thought: now I am a man, I have put away childish things.
But I also remember the year I felt the bottom of the stocking on the morning of the 26th, and found something. Had I missed it? Had Santa come again? I still remember what it was: a small plastic box with a clear plastic top, hinged, a little sponge in which sat . . . a 45 record needle. How odd. I remember the gift of the needle more than the need for it.
Christmases past: mornings spent unwinding those devilish plastic twist-ties that held parts together in the box, products of some soulless Chinese factory where robots worked tirelessly to cinch the licensed figures to a stiff cardboard background. Mornings spent assembling the castle, or the oven, or the playset. Something that made the morning special, and would suffer the usual trajectory: bedroom, basement playroom, closet, thrift store.
One year it was a Barbie Pizza Parlor, which led to Daughter cutting a commercial for her new business.
This year is different. I like that. Oh, it’s the same: Swedish Meatballs and lease for supper, as always. Then we will bake dog cookies, because Trader Joe’s had a special and I bought a kit. Then we’ll open gifts, which is different but the same - when Daughter was 3 or so, we switched to Christmas Morning for opening presents, but they’re leaving for elsewhere on Christmas Day, and I am here because the dog would not understand why he was put in a cold barred box for a week. No one can bear the thought of him bereft in a cell on an institutional pillow smelling of bleach. That was how I found him a few years ago at the pound, a scrawny bag of mites and worms, the card on his cell bearing the name of the dog we’d just lost. So we’re going to batch it, as they say.
As much as I’d love to go to a warmer clime, I want to stay here and give him normal days. I know it’s probably silly. Anthropomorphizing and all that. But he cries these days when my wife leaves the house to go across the street to have a holiday beverage with the neighbor across the street, because she rarely goes anywhere without him, and he worries. He actually clawed out a board from the fence because he knew she had walked out the back gate and disappeared into the difficult, dangerous world.
Ah, the fence. It needs replacing. It’s come to the end of its life. That’s an expense. So, the gift to the family for 2021: fence expense! Gift to daughter, college tuition! But it’s not the same. You can’t unwrap either. You have to unwrap something.
In the old Victorian stories the gifts are so simple - why, an orange, studded with cloves? You shouldn’t have. When modern commercial Christmas started ramping up post-WW1, it was toys and gadgets, just as today. Buying someone a HomePod Mini is just the same as buying an radio or Victrola, except cheaper. A rag doll or Jazzbo in 1921? Same as a Barbie or whatever mod toy fills the niche today, without the marketable backstory and websites and videos. Point is, you have to unwrap something.
So how do you unwrap a goat, or a sheep?
Here’s the dangerous thing I did. I took my wife’s word: she doesn’t want anything. I went to the mall, priced a bunch of stuff I would’ve gotten her, and spent it on goats and sheep. (heifer.org.) Not really so dangerous. She’ll approve. That’s a gift that will not go in the basement or end up in a thrift store. A family we’ll never meet will be happy with their goat, and we’ll be happy they’re happy.
The Heifer project allows you to buy shares a cow or goat or sheep, if you don’t want to pop for the whole thing. They also provide an opportunity to contribute to a start-up business in the 3rd world - or, if you don’t want to float the whole boat, buy a share. The terminology doesn’t quite work when applied to a commercial enterprise - if I buy a share in a business in rural India, can I can show up and demand a cut after a year? I see myself swaggering into the village, talking like Sheldon Leonard in a Damon Runyon story, saying all youse there, leave us be. Okay, citizen, it is I who put up the dough for this operation. The time has come what you should tell me what it is that have to show for it.
Merry Christmas, my friends. And remember: 1-88 for the most soury pizza.
Also, I'm pretty sure that's Brian Keith, no?