Before my birthday one year, my grandmother sent me a brown paper
package containing a present and a note. I can't remember what was in
the package, but I remember the note quite well. In it, she told me
that this would be the last birthday gift I would ever get from her.
was a teenager, too old to be getting birthday presents, she explained.
Besides, she had so many grandkids (and was starting to have
great-grandkids) that it was just no longer reasonable for all of us to
expect lovely brown paper packages each time the Earth spun around the
That's it. Store's closed.
She worded it quite
sensibly, and I didn't take it personally. But I do remember thinking
that I was being penalized for the fact that I had so many cousins –
something that was really beyond my control. Why not just scale down
our presents – scarves instead of sweaters – rather than do away with
them altogether? I didn't get it.
Now I do.
through the miracles of births and marriages and new friendships, our
holiday shopping list grows and grows and grows. We're blessed to have
so many people in our lives – particularly so many young children.
Unfortunately, our bank account isn't similarly blessed.
and I wandered into a kids' boutique recently and found some
ridiculously adorable clothes – Harley-Davidson wear for 6-month-old
Louey. A Baby Phat outfit for Zev's little cousin, Natalie. Princess
gear for Noa and Mia. Trucks for Aidan and Jonah (and Zev, of course).
Stuff for the twins and for the other cousins. Plus there are the three
babies who hatched in the last three months – they should probably get
some Hanukkah and Christmas presents. Ah! And I can't forget Will and
Olivia (though I'm at a loss for what to get a 14-year-old boy).
there are the birthdays: My sister's birthday is coming up. As are
Jeff's and Brill's and Hubby's and Yvette's. Sylvia will be turning 1
I walked around the store, arms laden with absolutely
perfect – and perfectly expensive – presents and started to do the
math. I was never good at accounting, but I'm fairly certain you don't
want minus signs in front of your numbers.
I noticed a
toddler-sized Guess outfit. And a dress that was selling for more than
I paid for my shoes. When I spotted a baby-size fur coat that I'm not
entirely sure was faux, I put down everything I had been holding.
"This is not going to happen," I said to myself. I walked out of the store.
have never had a problem with the commercialization of the holiday
season. I'm a Jewish girl from Southern California, so Christmas never
meant much more to me than candy canes with my Hanukkah gelt and
pictures – just pictures, mind you – of snow.
I have always
loved giving (and getting) holiday presents, and prided myself on
finding just the right doodad for every person on my list. But that was
back when my list was much, much smaller.
A few days after my
nonshopping excursion, I talked to a friend who does PR for a major
gaming manufacturer. He said people were buying as many electronics
this year as they ever did before – except everything has been scaled
down: Blenders instead of plasma screen TVs, DVDs instead of DVD
"Scarves instead of sweaters," I thought to myself.
the economy of scaling down doesn't mean much when you're buying in
bulk: Seven $10 presents are still more expensive than one $50. I
thought about baking my holiday presents (that's something my PR friend
has been doing for years – with much success). But I don't bake, and
getting something that came from my oven would be a treat for no one. I
also don't sew, knit, draw or paint.
So this year, to celebrate
the holidays, all the adults in my life can expect the only other thing
I can offer: nothing. Yes, friends and family, your kids will be
getting lovely presents, but you … well, aren't we getting too old for
this whole gift exchange thing?
That's it. Store's closed.