The Art of the Gift

It’s been another relatively uneventful week up the mountain. Katrina and I are still waiting on the apartment that accepted us to get back to us once the old tenants move out. It sounds like we might be moving in the week before Christmas, but we’re still not guaranteed.

The weather has warmed up some, after a few weeks of negative temperatures, it’s finally in the teens and low twenties, so hopefully (for other people) it will snow. Maybe it’s because I grew up where it never snowed, or because I went to college where it seemingly always snowed, but I honestly prefer a dry 5 below to a snowy 23 degrees. It’s easier to drive and walk when the snow isn’t deep and melting and refreezing to ice.

Katrina keeps threatening to teach me how to do “fun” things like skiing and ice skating, but cold weather activities are never going to be my idea of fun. Cold weather is when you stay inside and read or play video games or whatever, like a sensible person.

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I think I’ve finished my shopping for the season, made slightly more complicated by being away from home for the Christmas season for the first time. I decided to compromise and get a present for Katrina and a present for the Rixes as a unit, since, let’s face it, I don’t get along with her sister well enough to know what she would want, even if I wanted to get her anything anyway. I’ll not ruin what I got them here (I know at least Katrina reads this blog), but the Hinton tradition of quality over quantity continues. That, by the way, has become something of a minor bone of contention here. It seems the Rixes are not big Christmas people, only getting each other token gifts more out of obligation than anything else. For us, the holiday has always been a big deal, the biggest, since it is also my birthday. So, perhaps my standards are overblown. I just hope I don’t become that guy, getting everybody really nice stuff and making them feel self-conscious about their presents.

I understand the holiday isn’t all about the consuming (though society will tell you otherwise), but to me, it has always been about thoughtful giving; getting someone something they would appreciate and really use, but not something they would necessarily go buy themselves because they need it. At least that’s what I try to do. The practice of going out and buying the hottest, most expensive product on the market just seems so shallow, as does the “wander into the store with only the vaguest idea of what you’re looking for and just grab whatever” approach.

Perhaps I put too much emphasis in tradition; I got my mother a gift from the local jewelry store every year for years; my parents give me a historical plane ornament every year from a Hallmark line that has been going for years. It could be a lack of imagination, I suppose, but there is something comforting in the consistency of the whole process. When I was in elementary school, for whatever reason, I became obsessed with old airplanes. I worked hard on a historical report about the Wright Brothers, and the flight at Kitty Hawk. And that year, almost like they were conspiring, Hallmark had a Christmas tree ornament that was a beautifully crafted model of the Wright Flyer. Now, when it comes to ornaments, we have always been a traditionalist family; snowflakes and angels and snowmen and Santas. Cutesy ornaments are acceptable as long as they are holiday themed, bonus points for handmade ones. (none of those traditional bulbs, though; too easy to break and they make a mess.). No matter how big a Star Wars fan I am, I will probably never put a Millennium Falcon on my tree, even (maybe especially) if it lights up and makes sound.

But we made an exception, of a sort, for this little Wright Flyer. It didn’t go on the tree, but we hung it by fishing line from the ceiling. And I loved it. Then, every year, they had a new historically significant airplane ornament. And every year, my Dad would buy one, until I had a whole squadron of little planes dangling from the ceiling of my room. As soon as the local Hallmark stores got that year’s decorations in, I would always check and see what the plane was this year, something I still do.

When I went off to college and my room became Mother’s Official Sewing Room, the planes came down and went in a box. But every year, when I came home for the holiday, there would be another little airplane under the tree. By then they just went straight into the box, but the plan was (and still is) to hang them all like the world’s tiniest air museum once I got settled somewhere. It’s a silly little tradition we’ve kept up, but I have every one of those little planes in that series.

I hope there’s still a little plane under the tree.

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2 responses to “The Art of the Gift

  1. Nicely said, kid. You can write about something of minor import and make it compellingly interesting. Similar to the photographer who captures beauty in doorknobs or leaf piles. Keep on blogging!

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