The Gifts of the Season

Not to sound like the bah-humbug sort, but Thanksgiving weekend has always seemed to me to be too early to start getting ready for Christmas. Even though Costco had gift wrap featuring Santas and reindeer before Labor Day, and there have been trees with glittering lights set up at Lowe’s since Halloween, and peppermint-stick Almond Roca has been in Fred Meyer for at least a couple of weeks, I remained resolutely in non-Christmas mode. Today it is December. Time to shift gears.

I noticed yesterday that some of my neighbors have been busy putting up their outside Christmas lights. Good timing, as it has not been raining for a few days. We thought about putting up lights last year, but day after day of rain dampened our intentions. We decided to visit California for the last week of December instead, and left the lights in a box in the garage.

I’ve also noticed cars driving around town with pine trees lashed to roof racks or poking up out of pickup-truck beds. Again, the weather has cooperated with the mission. Interesting that I have not noticed big crowds at the mall or swarming through Target, or early shoppers camped outside the Best Buy. It could be that I just can’t see them from my house. I love to shop when the stores are nearly empty, but the Black Friday crush is not on my list of things to experience. Ever.

I really do like to shop. Last year around this time I came across a group from JBLM (Joint Base Lewis-McChord, the nearby military base) near the entrance to a local store. They were collecting donated gifts for military families who were struggling financially. I stopped to ask what kinds of things they were looking for. Toys, of course! Now, this was cause for some fun shopping! I don’t get to buy kids toys very often, since my own are both grown-ups now. That was my first gift of the season, last Christmas.

Emergency vehicles show up in our neighborhood in early December, after dark, with their red lights flashing. They are part of a local food drive. We chat with Santa as the fire truck stops to pick up our canned goods. Ah, another gift of the season, to see our neighbors strolling down to the ends of their driveways to help out. A couple of weeks later we had a dusting of snow. Watching the tiny flakes drifting silently toward the ground, a beautiful gift.

Each of these was a gift to me because of what it represented. Choosing toys for children I will never meet reminded me of shopping for toys for my own children when they were little. Back then I was squeezing 30 minutes of shopping into a lunch hour, or making a quick stop at a store on my way home from work. Donating food to help someone else reminds me of the abundance I have enjoyed in my life. We had some lean times, too – but there was always enough food on the table. And snowflakes are just peaceful, stress-less, calming to watch.

It may be still too early for me to think about decorating the house or wrapping gifts, but it’s a great time to start noticing the gifts of this season. I hope you will be watching for your gifts too.

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