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Beverly Beckham: shopping ruins Christmas

Posted by Your Town  November 29, 2010 08:49 AM

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I don’t know when Christmas became all about buying. Black Friday. Hot deals. Doorbusters. Stores opening at 4 a.m. Coupons and discounts, and every day from now until Dec. 25, more “last chances’’ than a 3-year-old gets.

This is the stuff that sucks the cheer out of the holiday season.

I love most everything about Christmas. I love decorating the house, picking out the tree, even wrestling with the tree. Is it too small, too big? Which side is better. Is it straight? Do we need more lights? We always need more lights.

I love unwrapping the ornaments, remembering each, telling the same old stories year after year. Reminding my children and now telling theirs, your mother made this when she was in third grade.

I love choosing Christmas cards and writing them; photo cards are my favorite, even if half the kids are looking in the wrong direction. I love sending these cards and receiving them, amazed at how much children grow and families expand in a year. Wedding photos. Photos of family trips and new babies and little kids with missing teeth. The mail is full of happy surprises.

I love listening to Christmas music, Perry Como and the Carpenters and “Mary, Did You Know?’’ and reading to the little kids my favorite Christmas story, “Granny Glittens and Her Amazing Mittens.’’ I love watching Frosty when it airs on TV — never mind that we have it on a DVD — and watching yet again “Cricket on the Hearth’’ and “Scrooge the Musical’’ and “It’s a Wonderful Life.’’

I love every gaudy wreath and glued-on glitz and every ceramic thing that sings and dances — so much wonderful, unnecessary stuff that you buy and think you shouldn’t, but are secretly glad that you did.

I love thin ribbon candy, not so much the taste, but the look of it. It reminds me of home. And making my Aunt Lorraine’s fudge and sitting in the living room, the tree aglow, all the old photo albums full of Christmases past, on the coffee table waiting to be explored.

I love the way the house feels at Christmastime, like something plucked from the North Pole, twinkly and magical, full of make-believe. Santas and snowmen and angels all getting along, sharing the space — the tree and the creche side by side.

What I don’t love, what gets in the way of all this magic, is shopping. The incessant dictate to buy now or this will be gone. To hurry up. To choose. To show the people you love exactly how much you love them by driving to a mall and waiting in line to purchase the most wished-for, perfect, lowest-price-ever, fill-in-the-blank.

The truth is, it’s not what you get at Christmas that you remember. Yes, you remember some things. The Christmas my soon-to-be husband gave me my hope chest. He came to my house and handed me a package. Inside was a Seth Thomas clock with a note attached that said, “This is to put in the hope chest that is waiting for you downstairs.’’ That was magical. And the Christmas my father gave me a Big-Bird-fluffy, yellow, one-size-fits-all bathrobe that he said looked like me. That was unforgettable.

But that’s it. Every other Christmas memory has nothing to do with presents. The year my son was born, I propped him under our scraggly tree and took his picture. The year my granddaughter Lucy was born, I did the same thing. All the years my cousin Jeannie and her kids came for Christmas when I was young. When my children were young. When everyone was here. And even now, when so many are not, Christmas day stands out not because of presents under the tree, but because of people seen and unseen.

They are the real gifts. Even the memory of them.

Canton resident Beverly Beckham can be reached at bevbeckham@aol.com

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