Cambrian: Slice of Life

Christmas gift giving? At our household this year, we gave the gift of memories

Kathe Tanner
Kathe Tanner

How was your holiday season? It was a unique one for us, for sure.

For one thing, I turned into the Christmas Grinch that’s every retailer’s nightmare. But more about that later.

The three of us — Husband Richard, Son Brian and I — were on our own for the holidays this year. No surprise there. We knew with Christmas and New Year’s falling on Tuesdays, none of our far-away family or friends would be able to visit over the holidays.

That’s a real change from our housefuls of yore, when every bed in the house was occupied, kids were layered everywhere on couches and inflatable mattresses, and we had 20 or more people around the groaning-board Christmas dinner table or flopped around the living room, watching football. Delightful chaos.

Not that we’ve been neglected, no sir! We celebrated November and December birthdays and Thanksgiving with visiting family members, on or near those special days.

Other relatives already are making plans to visit in January. So, we’ll celebrate belated holidays with them then.

You see, the Tanner calendar doesn’t control the festivities.

Or gift giving, for that matter.

Cue the Grinch theme, please, because we don’t give gifts on holidays or birthdays any more.

Among our family members and friends, the timing of gift-giving is no longer determined by the month, day or occasion.

Horrors! How revolutionary!

It feels kinda strange, if you want to know the truth. I don’t like feeling the least little bit Grinchlike. But our entire, spread-out family agrees that it’s the best concept for all of us now … without little kids in the picture, but with job pressures and schedules, already overstuffed homes, minimalist desires, limited budgets and time.

If I’m being honest, it’s a relief, too. No frantic searching for those final elusive presents on the last afternoon before the big day. No being buried under paper, ribbon and tons of tape (my family used to maintain I was the 3M queen). No race to get things to the post office, or high-tariff, late shipping charges.

Sure, there are parts of that traditional frenzy that I miss.

But as a caregiver for two, I really didn’t have time to search for ideal, clever birthday or holiday cards, let alone scour store shelves for gifts for 30 or more people.

And, face it, who knows for sure what a teen or millennial really wants these days?

Gift cards? Meh. Cash? Meh times 2.

Sure, we still love the concept of memorable gift exchanges.

Key word: Memorable.

Think about it: Do you remember all the presents you received or gave last year? Or five years ago?

Me neither.

Of course, we still give gifts. We’re not totally Grinchy. We just don’t do it en masse, or as often, or according to the calendar. It’s spontaneous, which is much more fun.

If we see something special that’s perfect for someone special, we buy it (preferably locally) and give it with great glee, but at a random time.

Sometimes, we give those finds immediately. But sometimes we wait to until the recipients come to visit, so we can share in the joy, too.

It’s so much fun to watch the expressions and body language when the recipient reads the hidden-meaning tags and then rips off the wrappings to discover something that maybe they didn’t even know existed, let alone that they wanted it.

It’s more like those Christmasses and birthday parties of yore. We’re making memories together.

Shared experiences are the best gifts, after all. In the past, those have ranged from spending a week together in Santa Cruz to a special family day of baking and cooking, concerts and plays and having a movie-and-ice-cream date.

I’ll bet the girls remember all of us going to the Alvin chipmunk films, “Shrek” and “Up.” Of course they do … because occasions we share are always memorable, with or without wrapped gifts.

So yes, our holiday season was different. We even had waffles for Christmas dinner! But we three cherished every minute of the season, because we shared it together, and that’s what really matters.

We wish you happy happy, fun, fun, fun and yo, ho ho, with lots of love, laughter, wonderful food and shared good times in a 2019 that’s the best year yet.