Presents vs. Presence


As a little girl, my first memories of Christmas are those in Florida.  As a Midwestern gal, Christmas in Florida was a big deal.  We drove for hours and stayed, for what seemed like a long time in a cozy efficiency motel on the beach.  Christmas gift giving was kept at a minimum because, as I realize now, there was no room to pack gifts and vacation necessities.  One Florida Christmas morning I woke to one of my white anklet socks taped to the edge of the orange Formica counter top.  In my stocking was a yellow plastic ruler and some candy.  On the floor under the stocking was a plastic toy beach bucket and tools.  I was thrilled and spent the remainder of the day on the beach with my newly made friends.  No one mentioned their Christmas presents.  Remarkable, gifts were not what mattered.


Christmas would come and go over the years.  There was never an enormous volume of presents under the tree.  As an adult and mother I practiced the same tendency.  Not thoughtfully limiting presents, but just a realization over time that quantity did not make a difference. Holiday spending may have played a part in the decision, but was never a driving motive.  Remarkable, gifts were not what mattered.


Several years ago, I was invited to Christmas morning with a new family that entered our lives.  We were there as guests and watched their traditions unfold on Christmas morning.  When I walked in and saw the beautifully decorated tree, I could hardly believe my eyes.  Presents wrapped in an uncoordinated assembly of bags, boxes, bows and tags were overflowing and flooding out from under the tree.  Tiptoes were required to navigate to the furniture to find a seat.


I watched the family open these gifts, I also watched everyone tire of the chore of unwrapping, saying the polite “thank you” or laugh, whatever was appropriate and go on to the next gift on their mountainous stack.  Even the littlest kids soon were moving away to play with an earlier unwrapped gift.  The thought popped into my head, “this is a vulgar display of Christmas”.  Unfortunately, and out of character it also popped out of my mouth, too.  By the way, I was not invited back to share future Christmas mornings.  I would have declined anyway.  Remarkable, gifts were not what mattered.


The emotion of exchanging gifts is exciting, joyful and can make you feel generous.  This emotion is valuable, but when I reflect on the time and the presence I have had with family and friends over the years, I cannot remember the presents that I received.  I do remember the gatherings, traditions and time shared.  I needed a reality check.  I thought maybe “grinchness” had crept into my soul, so I checked with my youngest son.  When I asked him about the gifts, he could not remember them either.  Oh, a couple of the most coveted toys of a particular year were remembered, but in general it was about the people gathered. Remarkable, gifts were not what mattered.


Part of my Christmas decorations and traditions, as much as the ornaments on the tree is displaying the book “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”.  I read it every year.  Maybe as a reminder…remarkable, gifts are not what matters.  My favorite line…


Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before!  “Maybe Christmas”, he thought, “doesn’t come from a store”. “maybe Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!”

Theodor Geisel – Dr. Seuss


When you read these musing and thoughts…slow down.  Listen to the words and stop and ask, do they suggest anything or situation in your life?  Some stories will speak louder to you than others and may have a deeper meaning.  Some will hit you just right and there is no right reaction or “homework” on these editions.  Just something for you to ponder as you travel through life. blog editions are written just a few days before posting.  I understand that some bloggers have their posts outlined and written months in advance.  I am always changing mine up to the last minute.  My thoughts and ideas are mingled with current reality and the initial direction or topic of the blog often gets sidetracked to what is occurring in my world at the time.  This presents vs presences edition is an example of those last-minute changes mentioned.  Hope my musings and insights greet you at a wonderful holiday season and Happy 2017.


The best, June

102 thoughts on “Presents vs. Presence”

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