More Blessed to Give29 Dec 2012
I'm not a particularly materialistic person. It's said that it is more blessed to give than to receive. If that's the case, then I had a particularly blessed Christmas. I've been blessed by a ratio of approximately 10 to 1.
A part of this is due to the arrangement that my in-laws have with one another, to not arrange gifts among the adults, but only for the nieces and nephews and then with a strict price limit. In this arrangement everything is systematic and pre-arranged without any risk of surprise or forethought. The suggested gifts are specified to the last detail, usually accompanied by a ISBN number or an Amazon link. Those who have no specific wishes simply wish for iTunes gift cards. Larger suggestions can be combined among families or with Oma, with a complicated accounting of how the costs are shared and who pays whom for what.
As you may know, our gift for Christopher this was a somewhat expensive musical instrument, a set of small pipes imported from Canada. My idea was that the in-laws could give a share of the instrument as their gift to Christopher: the set budget for Christmas and birthday would cover one-twelfth of the cost. I assumed this would be entered into the post-Christmas cost-of-gift accounting. But for some reason, perhaps because the small pipes did not have an item number at Amazon, the in-laws had all instead prepared envelopes with cash for Christopher. That was somewhat awkward as he already had gotten the pipes on Christmas Eve, so I had to snatch the cash from the cards. One of them had even pasted the bills with double-sides sticky pads to the card, which could only be removed with 10 minutes elbow grease and nail polish.
For my gifts within the family I did my best to break the rules about avoiding surprise and forethought. For Christopher I found a couple of his favorite US groceries (Honey-Nut Cheerios!), for my wife some Brazilian jewelry and her specific wish for a bag for eyeglasses on her running belt (she lost a pair in the woods a couple of months ago; if you see a wild boar wearing bifocals you know who they belong to). For both I found a print of a hand-drawn map of London to remember our recent trip.
I'll admit I'm being selective about counting gifts received. I'm not counting cash from the US (saves on shipping and I can pick out what I want), and I'm also not counting the colored sugar-and-spice calendar given to both my wife and me. I will also admit that the 50-year-old male is not the easiest to pick out presents for. I probably wouldn't know what to get myself.
In the end my best and only present is a blue terry-cloth bathrobe. I already had a blue terry-cloth bathrobe, but it was 10 years old and my wife decided it was too ragged to look at anymore. The new robe is longer but not as warm. It will also be a constant reminder of how blessed I was this Christmas.