Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Very Brady Christmas

I'm afraid to say that gift giving has become more of a chore than a pleasure for me in recent years. Not because I don’t enjoy buying things for others, but because personal experience has taught me that guessing what might be a welcome addition to someone else’s possessions is not only difficult, but sometimes impossible.

The current economy has meant that there is less money for things we don’t need or want, and we’ve all become more aware of being selective about the burden of possessions in our lives. After my parents died I discovered innumerable gifts sent to them, mostly opened, but obviously unused, stuck in various drawers or on closet shelves. It really depressed me to see that something that I had squeaked out of a tight budget was neither returned for something more desired or passed on to someone who needed it.

We’ve defaulted to asking our children for very specific requests, including links to order what they want online, or giving gift cards or checks for something they need. I’m happy to see my gifts being appreciated, but somehow the pleasure of seeing someone open a surprise and be truly delighted just isn’t there when you’re being practical.

Walker III has become quite a nostalgia buff as he has matured. I think his “collectibles” are simply a way of recapturing what was apparently a really happy childhood with his sisters. He has been on a quest to re-purchase every single toy he remembers from his earlier days, most of which I sold in a garage sale or gave to the Alliance for the Mentally Ill when they called seeking donations. Sometimes he comes home from his treasure hunts to the antique malls with a small item he’s paid several dollars for that I recognize as a McDonald’s toy. I never complain, though, because these trinkets bring him pleasure and it's his hard earned money he's spending. I do complain about the condition of his room on occasion, however, so he’s learned to make room for his new things by sorting out some less desired least sometimes.

Over the last couple of years Walker has come to rely on the Ebay fairy (Mom) to help him locate things he remembers but can’t find locally, but for quite some time we’ve been unable to find a video or dvd of a short lived series he remembers, The Brady Brides. We looked and looked, but it apparently just didn’t exist. This year I hit the jackpot. I found what appears to be a bootleg copy from a secret source in Canada. Once I did, I put together a whole box of Brady memorabilia to go with it, as did his sister Sarah who provided some magazine pages and clippings along with other goodies that are probably truly collectible.

The look on Walker’s face when he opened the box was one for youtube, only none of us thought to capture it, but I do have one still shot courtesy of son in law Robert. “Oh my God! How did you find it? I though you said you couldn’t find it? How did you find it?” His reaction made my Christmas Eve the best ever. I hope I hit the jackpot with a gift again sometime in my life. It was well worth it.


Friday, December 24, 2010

Gifts and Presence

A while back my eldest niece sent me an unexpected present. When I thanked her for it, she said it wasn’t a present at all, it was a gift. Puzzled, I asked for more info, and she explained that presents are things you feel at least somewhat obliged to give, but that gifts are something that you neither feel required to give nor expect thanks for. Well, my mama taught us to thank people for things no matter what you called them, and I have some thanks I’d like to share on this Christmas Eve before we delve into the pile of presents under the tree.

This year has been abundant with gifts, but the ones I’ve treasured most involved the presence of the giver in some way. I'm at a stage in life where I have less and less of other things to give, but my time is available. But I realize that that is not true of everyone, so their gifts are doubly precious.

There have been my internet friends that have reconnected and shared their lives with me from afar and my friends around Memphis that take time to play Mahjongg with me or go to lunch or dinner on the spur of the moment.

There are the times my family and I enjoy around the pool or at the lake, not doing much except being together. The little kids indulged my whim to make concrete stepping stones for my new “fairy garden” (dubbed by Becket) and spent a lot of time on the design and then execution. They are true works of art and gifts of time shared.

My sons in law all have wicked senses of humor, and their gift to me is always laughter...mostly at my expense, but welcome whatever the cost in dignity.

The thirty minutes little Walker and his dad and I spend together watching Wheel of Fortune every night is one of the gifts we give him. Up until we discovered that he had a knack for solving problems, sometimes faster than either the contestants or his parents, the announcement of that program was almost immediately followed by my husband shouting, "Change the channel!" Now we all gather around the television during pre-dinner time, engaging in a little friendly competition. Sometimes this leads to more discussion over dinner, although not always.

Big Walker doesn’t realize that I don’t just appreciate the labor he puts in in our yard to indulge my whims and need for beauty and order, but I really appreciate the rare times he’ll sit back with me and let me gush on over how beautiful it is and enjoy the sun setting and night sliding over the garden.

Friends have invited us to spend weekends with them and we’ve returned the favor, loving the luxury of an extended visit and musing over good times we’d mostly forgotten. Sometimes there’s something splendid to do like Lessons and Carols or perhaps an easy hike at Sewanee, other times, it’s just visiting.

Last summer while I was visiting friends in her vicinity, my sister give me the greatest gift of our lives, although she’s given me some pretty fabulous presents through the years. She insisted on spending some time with me, and we giggled together as we went to the pamper parlor and I got the best eyebrow waxing ever…her gift to me was not only a brighter, somewhat prettier countenance, but of herself.

My brother took time to send me a note about how much he enjoys the eclectic assorted collection of reading material I send him, mostly things he would not have read.

At Thanksgiving this year, my girls knew that I really wanted to put up our Christmas tree while Sarah was home with the baby. It was to be his first official Christmas Cousins photo, and I wanted it to be festive. After a little grumbling, and a lot of yeoman’s work from our husbands, the tree was up and decorated before I got the dishes in the dishwasher. Two hours later, we had a photo. What a gift!

I treasure the old friend I found recently after a long search who told me that once we reconnected he went through and read my whole blog. My goodness, that is a gift of presence…even I don’t want to read all about me in one sitting. But if you’re reading this, you’re giving me a gift too. So thanks for being there for me.

When I was doing Pastoral Care, one of the training guides advised being “fully present” for those we visited in times of need. I never felt like I was really good at that, preferring to organize the visits and send others to sit and listen. Perhaps next year I’ll make more time to be fully present for someone who needs it whether it might be a friend or stranger or member of the family. I know how much I’ve appreciated all the gifts of presence this year. Maybe some of you will choose to do the same. Merry Christmas to all and Happy New Year too!



Sunday, December 12, 2010

Mary Knew

I attended the most insightful Sunday School class this morning, and the most interesting part of it was that it was taught by one of my best friend’s daughter. The Reverend Katherine McQuiston Bush was born just a few months before little Walkerand I held her when she was only weeks old. She has grown into a beautiful young woman…a wife, mother, and priest and fabulous speaker.

Kate talked about Mary this morning in a way I couldn’t have imagined. She gave Mary flesh and bones and an intellect and spunk and a heart that had the capacity to break. On top of all that, she pointed out to me something that might have never occurred to me otherwise…somebody had to teach Jesus to be the man he was and that person was probably his Mama. (I would add that she probably had some help from both his earthly and Heavenly Father.)

On the way home from church, coincidentally I’m sure, one of my favorite Christmas Songs broke through my reverie. I’ve blogged about this one before, but it deserves another listen.

Part of the lesson this morning was that each of us has the capacity within us to share God’s gifts. This is my gift to you on this winters day.