Memories from Kate on the 8th day before Christmas...
I'm the sort of person who never forgets where things come from. Like the Pledge of Allegiance, 1980s commercial jingles or the theme song to "Fraggle Rock," this extra bit of information takes up its indelible bit of space in my head - for instance: on my desk right now, I have three pens Jeremy brought me from work after I complimented them (very smooth ink dispensation, made of recycled plastic, handy hinged clip); a pair of nail clippers Lindsay decorated with beads and wire and gifted me when we were eight years old; a Mason jar full of pencils, but which used to be full of Mom's green beans; a charcoal drawing of ballerinas I fished out of my artist neighbor's trash. Two years ago.
I remember a lot of Christmas gifts: a very trendy outfit from Mike and Mary - plaid leggings and a matching sweatshirt - at a fourth-grade moment in which I was desperate for coolness. (I wore it twice a week until summer.) A coveted, gleaming frying pan from Mom and Dad - quite possibly the most-used (and most valuable) item in my house. A wooden otter that rolled on an axis through painted waves - a gift from Grandmother that I felt too young to understand, and treated with cautious reverence. A pearl bracelet from Bo that made me feel as beautiful as her when I wore it; a shiny jacket that made me feel as cool as Dad when I climbed on the back of his motorcycle with him. Marvelous stacks of books that seduced me as I hauled them around joyfully, from wrapping-paper-strewn living room in Atlanta to wrapping-paper-strewn living room in Tennessee to blissful literary quietude in the mountains. A vaguely garish holiday sweater whose velvet-soft insides warmed me when I learned that it had belonged to a deceased relative. A watercolor of the Fox theatre from Kim and Tom, honoring my passion for performance and the beginning of a great journey to New York. A first-generation ipod that's given me literally thousands of hours of pleasure; an old bicycle, perfectly sized and precisely when I needed one; a spectacular cookbook, whose giver I silently thank every time I open its sticky pages.
And Santa's gifts - coyly arranged, as only magic could do, in a splendidly intricate tableau: Samantha reading a tiny magazine in her new dress; books heaped romantically like an ancient library, gymnastics Barbie perched atop them, her legs rakishly crossed. (I remember wondering what other children's display of gifts must be like: were the G.I. Joes marching in attack formation on chemistry sets? Were stuffed bears fending them off with Super-Soakers?) Stockings bulging with treats and treasures. The enthusiastic whack of a chocolate orange on the tabletop, and the subsequent delight of pulling apart the molded segments, the perfect taste.
Mostly, though, what I remember has very little to do with this uncanny ability to recall where things came from. Mostly, I remember a deep sense of intention. It was never about the stuff - it's about the warm little center of community, heating up and burgeoning outward as we give and give, back and forth. The note inside the front cover. The outrageously ornate clusters of ribbons. The breakfast casseroles assembled in the wee hours of the morning. The deep, warming comfort of a perfect pot of chili. The hours it must have taken to arrange those magical tableaus. There needs to be a words for this, the opposite of jealousy, that goes beyond "a spirit of giving."
I suppose it's Love.
Merry Christmas, dear ones. I love you.
*By the time you read this, Kate will be coming home for Christmas. :)