By Beth Daley, Globe Staff
When I was growing up, my mother used to place paper grocery bags filled with second hand books under the Christmas tree for each of her six children. While we would occasionally get something new, circumstance and her Depression-era ways made my brothers and sisters joke years later we were part of the first-ever recycled Christmas. Even the wrapping paper was reused four or five times and we were yelled at if we didn't open presents carefully enough.
Then we grew up, got jobs and, at least compared to our early life, got rich.
We left my mothers' parsimoniousness in the dust. Sony walkmans, then iPods, filled our Christmas stockings. We bought boots, dresses, fancy coats and even airplane tickets for each other. I remember getting a second-hand alarm clock from my mother in my 20s, thanking her politely, and throwing it away once I got back to Boston. Then I bought a new one.
But in these extraordinary economic and environmental times, I’m seeing people acting a bit more like my mom in the pursuit of presents this holiday season: They are reaching for creativity instead of cash.
My friend Catherine and her boyfriend are making chutney. A playground mother I met is going through her substantial book collection and giving favorites to friends and family with a note why they might like it and why she did.
My husband and I are making cds for family and friends.
Who knew my cosmopolitan friend knew how to make chutney? Or that the playground mom loves Haruki Murakami’s books as much as I do? In burning the cds, I even discovered my husband likes Neil Diamond. (Sometimes.)
I know I’m recycling my childhood Christmas experience into present day quaint memories. The truth is at the time I wanted a pair of skates. Then a pair of really tight Sassoon jeans.
Yet today, as paychecks decline and global warming pollution rises, I’m finally finding a comfortable place between my mother’s frugality and my consumptive inclinations. I'm buying some new carefully considered presents, mostly for children. But for the adults in my life, I try to keep it from the heart with previously loved, or handmade gifts.
I call it the partially recycled Christmas.
I’m even reusing wrapping paper from last year.