I attended a holiday luncheon a few days ago. Many of the folks who were present had a strong culinary history and a penchant toward creative cooking, so the food was incredible — and there was a lot of it.
After most of the people attending had sampled at least one of many delicious-looking desserts (including an outstanding chocolate trifle and a quite-unique cranberry pie), there was a gift exchange. It involved bringing a "wrapped-something" you wanted to recycle to a new owner — with the idea they would love it more than you did.
It was the kind of gift exchange where you get a number, and when it's called you choose and open a present. But if you see an already-opened gift someone else selected and you like it better, you can "exchange" it "¦ again and again. "Steal" is another word I could use here — but that just isn't in the Christmas spirit.
The gifting process got very merry and just a little silly. There was a bottle of red wine that rested with several new owners before it found its final home. I kept eyeing an early-opened, slightly tattered book titled "Tightwad Gazette" by Amy Dacyczyn and nabbed it when my turn came.
I must have looked immediately possessive because several people came over to fondle the book as they considered their options — but ultimately they let me keep it.
I'm thinking that book might become one of my favorite Christmas presents ever, and I will remember the whole experience with a special smile. It reminds me Christmas giving can be done with significantly less materialism and more just plain fun.
My new-old book sets the stage. There's an entire section on "scaling down for Christmas," with an idea for an angel ornament made from a tin can lid and a paper clip. There's a "white bread glue" recipe (as the book states, "possibly the only good use for white bread") that promises to turn out interesting "jewelry for older kids." I intend to involve my granddaughters in that project. The book suggests it's "messy," but making a mess can be one of the happiest parts of grandparenting.
This year our household welcomes all our children and grandchildren for an extended holiday visit. We'd like to assure it's a joyous time — but with more attention to giving than getting. We've asked our children to defer on gifting us in any way and instead suggested they choose a charity — indicating we will match any donation they make. Our 16-year-old granddaughter chose Petfinder. My daughter-in-law who teaches fifth grade decided to give to the families of some of the neediest children in her class — the ones she indicates "touch my heart every day."
I think that's what this season should do — touch our hearts, make us smile, maybe even laugh out loud. Let me end with this: When our children send us text messages they sign off with "lol." Silly grandma, I just realized what that means. And that is what I wish for you and yours. May this season be filled with "lots of love." And every single day, "laugh out loud."
Sharon Johnson is an associate professor in health and human sciences at Oregon State University and on the faculty of the OSU Extension. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 776-7371, Ext. 210.