This time of year I often find myself saying, “You don’t have to get me anything. No, seriously.” And I mean it.
One reason I mean it is because I already have too much stuff. I’m a packrat, son of packrats, grandson of packrats, great-grandson of packrats, and things accumulate around me. I hang on to extra adaptor cables, chargers, old gadgets that have been replaced with newer models because someone might need that someday. I collect books, certain kinds of toys, pens, earrings, paper products, movies, music, and other things because I like them. Or because they have some kind of sentimental value.
And my husband has similar tendencies.
So, on one level, I literally don’t need more stuff.
On the other hand, who doesn’t like getting gifts? Particularly if it’s something really wonderful? A couple of friends found an old book I didn’t know existed, written by an author I love, illustrated by an artist I like, featuring a character both my husband and I have enjoyed reading about, and with a hilarious title which was perfectly innocent when the book was written in the 1930s, but now sounds like a sensational expose of some secret gay life of the character in question.
It was a perfect gift for us. And I was truly ecstatic when I opened it.
Several years ago, when my mom was trying to come to grips with the problems inherent in her packrat tendencies, asked me to refrain from buying her things that would just sit around taking up space. “If it isn’t something I can use up or that you know I need, please don’t.”
It has proven a valuable guideline, which I have been trying to apply to everyone I shop for at Christmas time. And I really enjoy getting that kind of present from others. For instance, another friend gave me some really comfortable, extra warm socks in my favorite color. They’re perfect for cold winter evenings when I need to keep my toes warm. And yeah, they’ll wear out eventually, but the whole point is to use them, including use them up.
Another friends got us a custom engraved photo frame with the date of our elopement. We were blessed to have several friends take some really great pictures of the event, and yes, I want to display a few of them. One of aforementioned friends gave us framed printouts of some of the best of the pictures he took. More great gifts.
I know that I have ignored others telling me that I don’t need to get them something. I’m not trying to be difficult, and I certainly don’t want them to feel obligated to reciprocate. I do it because I want to give them something. Sometimes it’s because I saw something in a store or at a craft fair or in a dealer’s den and I thought, “Oh! So-and-so simply must have that!” And sometimes it just means I was thinking of them.
And I recognize that the same thing is happening with the people who give me things when I say they don’t need to.
It’s a dilemma with no easy solution.
Well, actually, the solution is quite easy: now that I’ve typed it. Instead of telling people they don’t need to get me anything, I should just stick to a heart-felt “Thank you!”