For most of us, we realize somewhere in our teens or early 20s that the reality of gift giving was after all ephemeral. Why didn’t someone belabor this obviousness?
Grandparents and aunts retire or die or both in turn. Parents move from full employment. Suddenly there’s a lot less under the Christmas tree and far fewer massive boxes sent by distant relatives.
At the same time, brothers and sisters, friends and other near contemporaries make drastic changes. They marry and many have kids. Suddenly we are the uncles and such. The scales of giving and receiving weigh quickly and dramatically to the other side. We look at decades of giving more than we get.
It doesn’t take long to accept it. The reality of presents is indisputable, immutable and long-term.
As the hubby and dad around here, I have come to accept that what is mine is everyone else’s as well. Even before there were kids, my clothes, particularly both tee and dress shirts served as nightclothes, drag, garden garb, and cool weather gear. My wife is much smaller and that was one way.
As our three sons grew, that multiplied. Missing shirts, jackets and sweaters were often in someone else’s room or on their shoulders. Such as it is.
The only objections I had were for the likes of tools and bike gear. I am positively anal about putting my tools in the (labeled of course) drawers of the big tool chest. Over the years, everyone else purloined my high-end screwdrivers, wrenches, hammers, cycle tools and such. Sometimes those just disappeared. Sometimes they were left out to rust. Sometimes they too ended up in a different room or even permanently lent to one of their friends.
Now on the plus side, the guys have gotten big enough that I can filch shirts or trousers should I want. That is a surprisingly sweet turnabout. I can understand my wife’s pleasure at yet more clothing options.
A Pot to Plant In
I thought of this again and anew this morning unpacking the vestiges in the van. The oldest son has a new job in California, he and his wife took off recently, leaving bric-a-brac in the Davis Square condo. My (I’ll do anything for my children) wife agreed to liaise with a realtor for rental and took the other two sons to clear out the place as part of enabling that.
So we ended up with a fair amount of junk, but also some nice leavings from the next generation on our family continuum. That was pleasantly obvious as I hoisted three 18-inch ceramic plant pots from the van. Those are useful, modestly valuable, and we didn’t give them to “the kids,” rather they to us. That’s a wonderful symmetry.
I am not exactly sure when in my 20s the seesaw tipped. It likely was gradual. I somehow began planning for, shopping for, and forking over a lot more than people gave me. There were grandparents and a mother and a sister, brother-in-law, niece and nephew, and on and on. I never resented it. Rather I was daft enough not to project that this would the natural order of things. It just happened.
So, we have variations coming up. Sizable services and dollars for weddings, colleges and presents, maybe followed with all manner of boons for as-yet-unborn grandkids, and then? Amusingly, we oldsters care less and less for possessions, dumping vast amounts in the move of two years ago. I’m more like my grandparents and mother years ago who chanted sincerely not to get them more stuff. In practice, what I ended up doing was tailoring presents to just what they’d want, need and ideally eat or drink (think high-end chocolates, booze and coffees). It was a consumer version of leaving no footprints in the forest.