No Returns or Exchanges

The holiday season is upon us, robust with the joys and frustrations, excitement and irritation that the season offers. And with the arrival of the holidays comes the giving of gifts! The tangible kind: gaily wrapped packages, stockings or shoes stuffed with treats, boxes full of homemade cookies and candy. The intangible: the innocent joy we see in children’s faces as they view a beautiful menorah or decorated tree, the excitement of watching someone open the gift you’ve chosen for him or her, the warmth exchanged during holiday greetings.

To be honest, I have a love/hate relationship with this time of year. It gets really cold in New England, and I’m not fond of that temperature (cold). (A New England-er born and bred, I blame my hatred of cold weather on a holiday break spent in Brazil during college; it spoiled me forever, I’m convinced.) I love giving gifts, but I hate shopping for them. I love wrapping gifts, but I hate the waste. I love celebrating with friends and family, but I hate cleaning my house first. Have you ever read Skipping Christmas, by John Grisham? A couple whose only child is out of the country for a year decide to forgo the season and all it’s trappings, and instead go on a cruise. It’s a bit of a farce, really, and I can’t say I loved the tale, but I’ve definitely been tempted to skip the holiday season once or twice.

But then, I remember. I get out of the gift-giving season what I put into it. If I let the gifts overwhelm, if I worry about whether I’ve spent too much or too little or if the color and size are right or if I’ve forgotten someone hates coffee and gave them a Starbucks gift card or if I’ve managed to leave a little something for the mailman (ours really is a man) and gosh, did I get a gift receipt for Aunt Lucy (who never likes her gifts), well then, I’m going to be miserable.

If, however, I remember to appreciate all the gifts of the holiday, like how lovely the house smells when there’s a fresh tree inside, the excitement our child has about the parties and food and decorations (oh, my!), and the anticipation of delivering donations to a local charity, the steady stream of fun, personal mail–well, then I remember that I love the gift-giving season. After all, while there are no returns or exchanges on these gifts, luckily, they are the very best kind to receive.

Choosing a book for myself can be just as challenging as any holiday gift shopping. After all, what more discerning gift-recipient will I buy for than me? And it’s not just the choosing, it’s the actual reading that is often fraught with anxiety for me. I have a huge TO BE READ pile next to my bed. All are by authors I’ve had the good fortune to meet, and some I’ve come to consider friends. But, (lowers voice to whisper), what if I don’t like them? It’s as though I think there’s a direct connection between the thought in my head and the author, and they’ll know, they’ll just know that I didn’t like their work. (Yes, I worry about these things.)

Following my rules on holiday gift-giving however, I remember that I get out of the reading experience what I put into it, and I have to let go of the worries. Maybe I won’t like it, but maybe I’ll find a new favorite author. Did I try a new genre or author? Good for me! Perhaps I chose something simply to support a fellow writer, and shared the author’s joy that sales numbers went up (even if only by one). And, there’s the fact that the TO BE READ pile has shrunk by one (and I can shop for a new book!). If all else fails, maybe I have a gift for Aunt Lucy, signed by the author.

No returns or exchanges, of course.

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Author: Pamela A. Oberg

Pamela is a portfolio manager at an educational assessment company by day, writer by night. Founder of Writers on Words (a discussion and critique group), Pamela enjoys spinning tales of murder and mayhem, with an occasional foray into the world of the paranormal.

7 thoughts on “No Returns or Exchanges”

  1. We skipped Christmas one year. Well, sort of. We had to move at the end of December. We celebrated our new house on New Year’s Eve. I love this holiday. Christmas, usually Hanukkah, and Yule, or Winter Solstice. Then the third new year of the year. (Jewish New Year in September, then Celtic New year on October 31, and then what I call the calendar new year.

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  2. I love the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas because of the joy. We’ve never been tempted to skip it, but, like you, we have kids. So that makes it special. Just watching their faces made it special for us. This year, my son finally copped to not believing in Santa. But that just means a new phase – watching them enjoy bringing joy to others. And a cup of hot peppermint flavored hot chocolate in front of a roaring fire doesn’t hurt either! (And too funny about gifting books to Aunt Lucy ).

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  3. This is the first Christmas in 7 years that I’m not working in retail, and I’m not sure I know what to do with myself! Being in southern California means it doesn’t feel like the holiday season, but I do think there is something in the air, a feeling of appreciation and indulgences. And to me, Christmas MUST include a book. Best part? If I don’t get one, I pull one from my TBR pile and spend the day enjoying it. *Bliss*

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  4. I worked several Christmases when on the sports desk at a newspaper where both the pro basketball and football teams always played on Christmas. My husband and I didn’t really “skip” Christmas on those years we had to work, but it totally didn’t feel the same, even though I still made Christmas cookies and scones.

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  5. Great reminder!

    Reminded me of the time my husband and I flew to San Francisco on Christmas because I had to go to a conference the next day. There were very few people flying and everyone was relaxed/cheery–it was oddly wonderful.

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  6. Theresa, I love all your celebrating! It sounds like so much fun. Cynthia, that’s kind of neat. I admit, I don’t often take the week of Christmas off from work because it’s quiet here, and people are so relaxed (and there’s not many, which is great for this introvert).

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