Have you got piles of presents hidden in your bedroom waiting for Christmas Day? I have. Except they’re not really hidden. They’re scattered around my room in the most inconvenient of places. I keep tripping over them.
It took me a long time to buy all my gifts. And a lot of effort. To be honest, I don’t like Christmas shopping. I’m tempted to say, “Let’s not have presents this year. It’s all a commercial trick to make us part with our money. Let’s just concentrate on the important aspects of Christmas: the religious side.”
Except I can’t do that. Why not? Don’t I have a choice? I do. I freely choose to do something that causes me a lot of effort and frustration and money.
Buying gifts is an opportunity for me to show great love towards my friends and family. Because I love, I’m willing to battle the crowds, and part with my money, and come home with hopefully-perfect gifts. I will then spend hours cutting paper and getting the sticky tape in a mess as I wrap everything up.
But once all that is done, I can anticipate the joy on everyone’s faces on Christmas morning. As they tear off the paper , will they say, “How did you know what I wanted? This is perfect!” Will they know how much I love them? I hope they do.
Deep in an old blog’s archive, I found another post about Christmas and presents and love…
I have a secret, a Christmas present secret. It’s such a delightful secret, I keep thinking about it and smiling.
Until a few days ago, I had no idea what to buy my husband Andy for Christmas. There were lots of things that would ‘do’, but I couldn’t think of that one particular thing that will make Andy’s eyes light up, and in doing so, give me a huge thrill of joy.
Then last Friday the idea came to me, out of the blue, when I least expected it. After weeks of thinking and thinking… the idea popped into my head when I wasn’t actually thinking about presents at all. I consulted the girls. Yes, they agreed: the idea was perfect.
We headed into town sure we’d find exactly what we were looking for, without any trouble at all. I don’t know why we were so full of optimism. Our shopping centre isn’t very big. It was quite possible not even one of what we wanted existed in a shop near us.
But there it was, sitting outside the first shop we parked alongside of. Well, to be quite honest we didn’t buy that exact thing. We found an even better one inside the shop. Two to choose from: We were very fortunate. The girls and I walked around it, tried it out, talked together, wondered if we could get it home in the van… and finally paid for it and left the shop with it. We hoisted it into the van. Mission accomplished. We drove home all smiles. And now we can’t wait to see Andy’s face on Christmas morning.
“What are you looking forward to most at Christmas?” I ask Gemma-Rose.
“Going to Midnight Mass.”
“Seeing baby Jesus in the crib.”
“Singing Christmas carols.”
“Thanking Jesus for coming into the world as a little baby.”
No. She didn’t say any of these. She said, with a gleam of anticipation in her eye, “Presents!”
Now I was a little disappointed with this answer, I will admit. It does nothing to promote a desirable perfect-Catholic-mother-with-the-perfect -Catholic-children image. But I thought about it some more and decided Gemma-Rose’s answer wasn’t as bad as all that. What if, after I have gone to so much trouble finding the perfect gifts for everyone, no one is actually looking forward to opening them? No, I hope everyone is wondering about and anticipating their presents. I want everyone to be impatient to tear off the wrappings. I want to see the look of joy on their faces when they discover what I’ve chosen. I want them to know that my presents reflect my love for them.
Andy gets rather stressed out about choosing gifts for me. He is so anxious to please. He often resorts to asking me what I’d like, just to make sure his present is a success. Being asked what I’d like disappoints me in a way. Somehow I just expect him to know instinctively what I’d like. Doesn’t he know me like no one else? Doesn’t he listen and remember? Doesn’t he know the yearnings of my heart? I know… I am being unreasonable.
But a few months ago, he hit the jackpot. We were walking through the shopping centre together, two weeks before our wedding anniversary, when he suddenly darted off into a shop, leaving me behind. He reappeared with a secret parcel and a huge grin spread across his face. “I’ve done it!” he announced. “I’ve finally found you the perfect gift without asking you what you want. I know you’ll love it.” Then he added, “And it’s still two weeks until our anniversary! This year I have done exceedingly well.”
I had to agree. The leather backpack he presented me with, a couple of weeks later, was perfect. It was entirely ‘me’. I am sure it was hanging in the handbag shop just waiting to be mine. It wasn’t just any backpack. It was my present. And Andy had thought and thought and then knew he had to buy it for me. Oh, I felt so loved that day.
I hope Andy feels just as loved when he sees the wonderful gift I have for him. I have been watching and listening, and although he hasn’t mentioned he’d like one of what I’ve bought, I just know it’s exactly what he needs and wants. Of all the possible presents in the world, it’s his present.
So what did I buy? Andy never reads my blog but I still don’t feel safe exposing the secret online. All I will say is it’s lying on the older girls’ bedroom floor, hiding under a blanket. “Dad always talks to us from the doorway,” said Imogen. “He’ll never even notice there’s a secret lying on the floor.” I hope she’s right.
I can imagine: It’s Christmas morning. “Close your eyes,’ I will say to Andy, before turning to the girls. “Bring in Dad’s present!” Andy will open his eyes and he will see his present. I will watch his face. Will it light up with joy? Will he say, “Wow! That’s the perfect present”? I wonder if he’ll add, “How did you know what I wanted?” Will he feel special and loved because I thought carefully and just knew? I hope so.
Presents? Gemma-Rose is looking forward to presents. I have a confession to make. So am I.
I wrote this post a few years ago so it’s now okay to reveal what Andy’s perfect Christmas present was. I bought him a comfortable swivelling office chair. He has spent hours and hours sitting in it while working. And when Andy is not using his chair, the cats snuggle up on it. They think it’s perfect too.
Perhaps you can listen to Imogen singing Lo, How a Rose Ere Blooming while you wrap your gifts.
So do you buy Christmas presents? Do you look forward to everyone tearing the wrapping paper off your gifts of love? And have you finished your Christmas shopping?