Past and Presents

It’s Christmas and that means shopping for, wrapping, giving and receiving presents.  And that is very different now that it was when I was a child.

Back in my day we had to “go shopping” for gifts.  We’d drive to stores and spend hours looking for things to buy.  As a child I pretty much hated those trips.  Nobody was buying any of that stuff for me (obviously people got me presents but they weren’t buying them when was there with them) and I wasn’t old enough to enjoy buying gifts for other people very much.  So shopping trips were basically no different than going to school or getting a hair cut, it was just time wasted not playing video games at home.

After buying the presents then you had to wrap them.  Which reminds me that you didn’t just shop for gifts, you also shopped for wrapping paper and bows and ribbons and other wrapping related paraphernalia.  Just getting the wrapping supplies was an ordeal.  I was often expected to help wrap gifts and I was always terrible at it.  Every year grown ups would teach me how to wrap presents and every year I, apparently, did an awful job.  Even now as an adult people tell me I’m bad at wrapping gifts.  I don’t understand why.  When you look at a gift I wrapped you can never see the product under the wrapping paper.  That’s the point, right?  To make it impossible to see what the gift is until you unwrap it?  As long as the wrapping paper and tape completely hides and disguises what the gift is then mission accomplished.  People go on and on about neatly folder creases and tidy corners but I don’t see how any of that matters.  Who cares about the wrapping paper and tape on the outside, it’s what’s inside that counts.

Then you distributed the presents to people who lived nearby and mailed presents to people who lived far away.  Mailing Christmas gifts was most of my early exposure to the Post-Office.  And that probably explains why I have so much anxiety about going to the Post-Office today.  It was always a miserably experience.  The employees were grumpy.  The other customers were grumpy.  The adults I was with were grumpy.  And I was grumpy, from wasting more time not playing video games at home.  I remember my Dad one time saying as we left the Post-Office, “For the price of shipping those packages we could have bought a lot more presents.”  “Well,”  I said, “let’s cancel those things we shipped and go buy me more presents.”  Apparently Dads comment was rhetorical, but try explaining that to a six year old.

Of course the flip side of mailing presents was that those people usually mailed presents to me.  Those were usually not very good though because they came from people who didn’t actually know me very well.  They were usually clothes, which is no gift at all really.  Or they were generic guesses at what I would like, which were usually way off.  I remember getting a baseball and baseball glove one year and asking my dad why they only got me one glove, don’t I need one for each hand?  The best gift from distant relatives was cash.  When you’re a kid and don’t have any money then you get a twenty dollar bill in the mail that is AMAZING!  You can go to the store and choose for yourself what to buy with it.  I never understood why adults said I couldn’t give money as a gift, because you’re suppose to treat others the way you want to be treated and I wanted people to give me the gift of money!  Maybe giving money is “rude” because if you give somebody else a twenty and they give you a twenty then the ridiculousness of gift giving because too obvious.
Then, after the big day came and went you had to write Thank You letters.  The main motivation for the Thank You letter was the idea that without sending a Thank You letter the relative in question might not send you another present next year.  But since a lot of my relatives didn’t send me very good presents in the first place this was no motivation at all.  I would have preferred they not send me anything, if it was just going to be socks anyway, and then I wouldn’t have the chore of writing the letter in response.  I think one year I said in the Thank You letters, “Next year please send money.” and they went out without my parents realizing what I had said.  Boy was everybody mad at me that year.  From then on, whenever an adult said “honesty is the best policy” I would roll my eyes.

Nowadays you don’t do any of that.  You pick out gifts on Amazon and have them mailed directly to the recipient, just remember to check the “This Item Is A Gift” box.  Then wait for them to text you a thank you Christmas day.  Easy.  And even though sending money is considered rude we’ve, for some reason, all decided that Gift Cards are perfectly fine so that’s great.  And some of my friends just buy me something on Steam from my Wish List, easy peasy.  Technology has really made gift buying better which frees up more time to play video games at home.  Merry Christmas!

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