We’ve decided not to do Christmas gifts this year. Mom and Dad (especially Dad) have been lobbying for this for years. But, as the youngest, it wasn’t until I finally suggested it, that it could really work. As the baby of the family, I fully acknowledge that this family has been keeping Christmas alive for me for a long time, but I’m all grown up now…well, kind of.
After a semester in divinity school studying religion and theology and rubbing elbows with all manner of people who’ve done incredible and humbling social justice work both at home and abroad, I was left cash poor (thanks tuition!) and life rich. Not only can I absolutely not afford to buy my family lovely gifts, but I’ve had some time to examine my life and I’ve realized there is nothing I really need. Sure, there are things I want (a Wushtof knife set, a new pair of boots), but the only thing I really want is for my sister to come home after 6 months on a building project in Africa (finally!) and for my grandparents (who aren’t getting any younger) to make it safely to Pennsylvania to spend the holidays with us.
I don’t want to spend Christmas morning getting annoyed that people aren’t moving to the tree fast enough (Dad has a habit of deciding to clean out like…the entire coffee maker right when we finally decide to sit down and open presents.) And I don’t want to be disappointed that I didn’t get what I wanted, or that it’s in the wrong color or the wrong size. I want to wake up on Christmas and have nothing to do except enjoy the company of the people I have to love—but actually really like a lot, too.
That being said, I did ask for ONE thing this holiday season, without which it will not feel like Christmas to me. And that is…a tin of three-flavor popcorn! I love that crap in a way that is embarrassing to admit. (Don’t judge me, or at least do so quietly.) And if we’re being honest I have to confess: I love the cheese flavor. I like the caramel. And I tolerate the existence of the butter section. Mom and I were looking online for some the other day and we stumbled upon a website where you could build your own bucket o’ popcorn. Granted, we decided we weren’t going to buy it online because it cost a ridiculous $39.99 before shipping and handling, but even as I considered creating my dream mix—80% cheese, 20% caramel corn—I just couldn’t do it. There’s some great lesson in that Christmas colored bucket—life’s full of cheese days and caramel days, but there are some pretty lame butter ones, too. But if you could engineer it to be all cheese, would you? I wouldn’t.
To my utter surprise and disgraceful glee, when I arrived home this weekend for a quick visit and break from papers and exams, Mom had already purchased my only present—and she let me open it early! Ever the savvy shopper, she bought it at Staples for a cool $5.99. (Who knew our friendly neighborhood office supply store carried popcorn?!) Trouble is, it’s only been open for about 3 hours, and the cheese popcorn is about to make it onto the endangered species list. Maybe, if I’m really good, I’ll find another one under the tree.
You know, I love that giant tin o’ popcorn, but mainly for the sentimental value (and also because the empty tins make great storage for Christmas tree ornaments!) But I’m a fresh popcorn girl myself. Popcorn at Christmas reminds me of that year our Christmas tree ornaments were stolen. We were 3 and 5 and dad was at Yale Divinity School. Our precious ornaments were in the communal storage space in student housing and when it came time to trim the tree, they were gone (who steals Christmas decorations?!) With dad in school and mom a test cook for Cooks Illustrated, there was hardly the money to buy a whole new set of ornaments. So mom and dad strung popcorn and fresh cranberries (I think we were too young to be using a needle and thread!) and we baked and decorated cookies which we turned into ornaments. And then about ten years ago, popcorn and cranberries featured on our tree again. I believe that was the year we were all feeling particularly crafty and also made a multi-coloured construction paper chain that went all the way around the living room. I can’t imagine having that much spare time anymore. But those were good times. Sitting around in the evening after dinner, stringing popcorn and cranberries and making paper chain.
Not having to buy gifts is the best gift you could ever give me, Sharon. Some people really have the knack picking out just the right thing at just the right price. But for most of us, Christmas shopping is pretty stressful. (Did I buy the right present? How am I going to pay for it all? When am I going to get it all done?) Although there’s a lot to do these next few weeks, thanks to you my heart’s not in my throat.
And you’re right about another thing. Life with only one flavor of popcorn would be pretty boring.
Sharon, I wouldn’t engineer it to be all cheese flavored, but I would go for all Popcorn Clusters with Honey-Roasted Peanuts! I’m trying this one for the holidays, but please tell me how in the world will I stop myself from burying my head in the tin?!!!