Christmas is a time that brings about conflicting emotions. It is a reminder of a lost childhood and separation from loved ones. This separation from my wider family (Grandparents, Aunts and Uncles and cousins) started with our move to Australia. Over the years we compensated by spending Christmas with friends who were in the same position.
In more recent years separation from family has taken a different form. My childhood was spent within walking distance of most family members. Back then all generations lived in the same or neighbouring villages. Today, even my immediate family are widespread. My daughter has lived on the Australian west coast for five years. My parents and sister live on the east coast.
Gloria and I live four hours inland from my parents and Gloria’s parents are a further four hours inland from us. I try not to think of the distance to my daughter.
The days of family gatherings are over and choices have to be made when times like Christmas come around. This year we have decided to spend Christmas at home after alternating between our parents for the last few years.
While I’m looking forward to a quieter and less hectic Christmas, both of us will miss spending that time with our families.
The part of Christmas I’ve never enjoyed is gift shopping.
I was always a last minute shopper and most years I’d be rushing around on Christmas Eve trying to find the perfect presents I should have thought about weeks before. This last minute shopping rush was not only stressful, it defeated the point of giving a gift. Rather than finding something I knew would be appreciated, the gift became something obligatory, but unwanted gifts are more likely to inspire disappointment, even embarrassment, rather than gratitude.
Fortunately I’ve avoided that Christmas Eve panic for many years now. I’ve been much more organised and often start buying gifts early in the year, putting them aside for when they are needed. Gifts for parents tend to be books (for mum who reads a lot) and wine (for dad but not because he drinks a lot). I also add items of local produce in a hamper – things I know they will use. It is pointless to buy impractical things to fill up their shelves and cupboards. Like many elderly people they are thinking more about downsizing and reducing their possessions rather than adding to them.
My daughter is the easy one. While I would love to be more imaginative and be able to help her to establish her own home, distance and delivery costs makes the sending of material gifts impractical. I now send her money.
The only person whose gifts need considerable thought is Gloria. It is logistically difficult to shop for her. Unless I can find something suitable in our small town, I have to find something during a shopping trip to Canberra, and since we go together surprising her is difficult. (She of course has the same problem shopping for me).
This year I have discovered internet shopping. While this makes it easier to find a variety of things she’ll like – their delivery at home, while I’m not there, can spoil the surprise a little. This year I bought her some art glass. While she knows she is getting glass she doesn’t know what it will be like. For me, the excitement of Christmas this year will come when she receives it.
I’ve seen it.
She’s going to love it.