I meant to get this post out before Christmas, but then Christmas happened quite suddenly. Nevertheless…
I’m pretty proud of myself this year. I not only managed to make a few presents, which I’m happy to see were well received, but I also sent out Christmas cards and mailed Christmas boxes home and to friends.
This may not seem like a feat worth being proud of. After all, people send Christmas cards all the time. It’s the done thing. But this has always been my trouble–I’m often one for thoughtful ideas, but I never carry them out. I do think of all those little social niceties, but I rarely go so far as to carry them out. I have a friend, who I greatly admire for being a pro at this. She is the queen of finding inexpensive but awesome presents, of getting you something just because she thought of you. When I dog sat for her once, as a thank you she included a gift certificate for a manicure and pedicure at a place we liked to go to together.
I love little gestures like this–they go a long way to making people feel special. That’s the thing about Christmas cards too–it shows you were thinking of this person enough to hand write a message, however brief, and what’s really special in this day and age, pay for a stamp. My husband’s family is very big on cards. They are extremely important parts of birthdays and Christmas, and at Christmas the standard boxed cards won’t do. They get each other the personalized ones that say “To my brother and his wife” or “To my son and daughter-in-law.” My family is not so big on cards–in fact, I don’t think my parents have ever gotten me one and it’s never so much as crossed my mind, let alone bothered me. On reflection, though, I think it’s part of the same thing–people like that little effort because it makes them feel special. And that’s what makes the little gestures so important.
I’ve always recognized this, and I’ve always wanted to be the person who does those little gestures. I get little brainstorms all the time for things I could do, but then I always fail in the execution. My thoughtful friend has produced fantastic Christmas and birthday gifts (the coolest post it note set ever inside a box inlaid with mother-of-pearl from her trip to Syria, for example, or a handmade star from a German market are examples that leap to mine). I know her taste exactly, partly because our tastes can be very similar, but somehow I never remember to get things in time for birthdays or Christmas. And I always *want* to. It just never happens. The same is true with my husband. I’ll be thinking I’m thirsty and yet am too lazy to get up and get something to drink and then all at once he brings me a glass of water. I make him plenty of tea, but I never think to do it randomly, and I never do it without asking if he wants it.
I’m not entirely sure why this is. Sometimes I know it’s a confidence thing. I don’t want to be pushy, or ‘creepy’ as my mother-in-law uses it, meaning someone who seems to be currying favor instead of making an honest gesture. I also hate the thought of doing something nice and having the gesture received with bemusement or contempt. Which is crazy of course, because I well know how lovely those little gestures are.
Another part, it has to be said, is that impulse which prevents me from finishing things. It’s laziness, but also something else, something that keeps me from going all the way through with a project. And then there’s the fact that I tend to have very grand ideas which can’t be accomplished in time. I used to think that each Christmas card had to have a long and thoughtful note with it. That means each card can take as much as 15 minutes, and who has the willpower to sit there and write cards for over 8 hours?
This year, something changed. When I was in Edinburgh, I saw something that was perfect for my friend. Instead of looking at it and thinking how I should get it and subsequently walking away, I bought it. I did miss sending it for her November birthday, but I got myself together enough to buy presents for her and her husband and their two small kids. Not only did I buy them, I went to the post office and *sent* them. I cannot stress the fact that somewhere along the way in previous years, something would have collapsed with this plan. I would have been missing one present, or never made it to the post office. The same is true for the Christmas cards I sent out. I ordered little business cards with our new address for next year, and sat one afternoon and wrote out a stack of cards and then made my husband sign them. And then they went to the post office. Again–a Christmas miracle. I can’t help but wonder how this happened so suddenly.
I think it’s the being away from home. When I first got here, people would often ask me if I was homesick yet. At the time I was gearing up for my wedding, and full of the knowledge that a good group of people who were very dear to me were on their way shortly. I was also dazzled by the idea that I didn’t have to say goodbye to MR. We had been so used to counting down and saying goodbye, and back in July, I was stunned that that period was over forever.
But the wedding passed, everyone came and went. I still love seeing MR every day, but it’s not brand new and shiny–he’s becoming part of my every day life. That’s very good, but it means I’m starting to think more about all that I left behind. The first day of school where I taught caused me a pang. I would kill to go out for dinner and drinks with my high school friends. And this is only the second Christmas in my entire life that I’ve spent away from home.
So the Christmas cards went out, the presents got made, the boxes packed and sent because I needed to feel connected with the life I left behind. I know I made the right decision, but after the first flush I’m realizing that moving across an ocean is no easy thing. And that I don’t want to say goodbye forever to the people I left behind. They still mean something to me, and I can’t show them by simple conversation or everyday activities anymore. All I can do is send a card and write on facebook. But it’s getting me over my laziness and shyness, because I want all those people to know I’m thinking of them. I would quote the song in the title of this post, but that may be just a bit too cheesy and sentimental, and I don’t want to hear about it from MR, as he inevitably will read this and tease me for being a sentimental American.