Wednesday, December 21, 2011

On the Appearance of Being Bah-Humbug-ish

I swear it's not me being a big ol' bag of bah-humbug this year. I've never been particularly good about Christmas shopping, always delaying until the last minute, and then floundering with finding good gifts for friends and family. I've had a few good moments of inspiration, when I was able to come up with blindingly fantastic gifts (or at least, I thought they were) that everyone seemed to enjoy. A lot of them had to do with being poor. One year, when I lived on a farm, I made gift bags of goodies from stuff I had grown in the garden...ropes of dried peppers, homemade relish and jam, canned strawberries and syrup. I made rag rugs one year, from the drapes that used to hang in my paternal grandparents' home.

And one year, I came up with the "Treasury of Thoughts." It was sometime in the late 1990's and I found a thrift-store glass dish with four partitioned sections. I picked up some little natural trinkets (seed pods, cool pebbles, sea shells) and placed them in each of the four sections. The accompanying card explained the idea:
"I've given you a Treasury of Thought this year. Each item in the dish represents an individual thought or action. The start-up items in the dish now are labelled as some things I think are good thoughts, actions and/or memories.
My  idea for the Treasury of Thoughts is that, as you go through the day, when you have a good thought or do something you're proud of (but that isn't great and grand enough to tell the world about) you can move a "thought" from one compartment to another to personally commemorate that good thing.
This shouldn't be a static collection of "thoughts" though. You can pick up your own things to put in it, or ask friends to collect small things for you throughout their travels.
There are a few guidelines for the Treasury:
1.  No "thoughts" can be purchased ones; they all need to be found, free.
2. Don't keep track of what thought you put in what compartment, or in moving particular ones to particular places.
3. Put it somewhere you'll see it at least once a day (preferably more), but that's out of the way of the four-footed furry feline.
I hope all this isn't too goofy, and I wish you lots of prosperity in your Treasury."
It was definitely cheesy, but it was cheap and thoughtful, and my mom kept hers for the rest of her life. Today, I think the best thing about it is that I can cheerfully drop all the thought trinkets in the yard, put the dish in the thrift store pile and compost the card...because the Treasury already served its purpose.

Then there were the years, though, that I just flopped. So sorry, family, for those ridiculous salt cooking blocks a coupla years ago. I don't think anyone has used them yet. Or the fugly swirly pink pastel pottery bowl that I found tucked away in my mom's cupboard. I think the pattern of giving useless crap started when I was very young. For probably the last ten years of my mom's parents' life, I gave my grandmother pretty soaps. They piled up in a basket on the bookshelf in her nursing home room, never used, gathering dust and diffusing their floral scents heavily into the air. But I had to give them *something.* Or so I thought.

This year in particular though, I'm just tired of stuff. I don't want to give people crap. I think it has a lot to do with cleaning out my mom's house and getting it ready to rent. I sent my sister a frantic email earlier in the week.  "Can we set up a time to call, and go through stuff? I don't know the provenance of a lot of this stuff and I feel like I'm gonna pitch out the family heirlooms if I try to do it by myself. I found some t-shirts that I made at the Early Learning Center [where I went to *pre-school!!*] (hideous, but just the kind of stuff mom would keep). And some beautiful aprons that look handmade. Sorry I've got such a horrible memory...wish I could do this on my own..." She responded sensibly and with just the kind of practical advice I needed to move past feeling overwhelmed.

Part of my frustration is that Mom had some lovely stuff that meant a lot to her. But I've already got a house full of stuff. My sister already has a house full of stuff. We already decided which pieces of furniture are going to whom. And luckily, I have the space to store stuff at my house in Maryland that does not have an immediate destination. But the other stuff...what to do with the blankets stored in the cedar-lined blanket chest that I remember piled on the bed as a kid? or the pots and pans Mom cooked with for the last 50 years? or the art that she had hanging on the wall from when I was eight, and her granddaughter was four? or that damned fugly pink swirly pastel pottery dish (actually, that one's's going to the thrift store! But you get the idea)?

Maybe cleaning out the house at Christmas-time wasn't the best idea. I kinda feel like I'm using it as an excuse for being too lazy to give any Christmas gifts this year. The reality is, though, that I'm over *stuff* for the sake of *stuff.* If I find myself inspired by something I see for someone, or have a great idea for making something, or a gift certificate that won't languish unused in the back of someone's junk drawer, I will GLADLY bestow presents on my friends and family. You may find yourself getting your Christmas present in August, though, because when I find something I think you'll like, I don't want to *wait* to give it to you...where's the fun in that?!

Unfortunately this year, I'm just not feeling inspired. My one inspiration is to sponsor any family (Amy, that means you and Ally, too) member that wants to join the Gravy, Wine & Steve team for the Greensboro Rugged Maniac race. It's sometime in April this year. Uncle Heathen and Aunt JB, you're getting race slots whether you want them or're the backbone of the team. Cameron, are you in? Jay, Alex? Does it fit with your schedule?

See, I'd *WAY* rather give stuff like this!


Just a Girl said...

Ugh, I meant to add in a sampling of some of the "thoughts" that originally accompanied Mom's Treasury of Thoughts. Here they are:
-cedar Christmas trees
-apple fritters and hayrides
-picking cherries from the top of the trees
-rainbows, especially double ones
-picking up trash off the sidewalk and putting it in the trash can
-sunrise walks on the beach with a hot cup of coffee in hand
-laundry hung up on the line to dry
-my sister
-going Goodwilling
-holding the door for someone
-getting dirty while doing a good day's worth of hard work
-purple potatoes and fresh cilantro

Sassenach said...

Tough job, and I feel your pain. One thought, before you send things to the thrift shop: invite your mother's friends to choose something to remember her by.

I treasure the old-fashioned metal slotted spoon that belonged to my husband's great aunt. I have my grandmother's bobbin box by my sewing machine. There was SERIOUS negotiating over the cheese shaker -- not because it was valuable, but because it sat on the family dinner table every Sunday since the 1930's. There's more, but you get the idea. It's all little, folorn stuff when you see it sitting on a shelf at the thrift shop, but for me they are touchstones of memory who have meant a great deal to me.

Hugs from the midwest....

Victoria said...

I thought that the "thought treasury" was by far one of the two coolest gifts I ever received in my entire life, matched only by the wedding necklet that belonged to my husband's grandmother. I have it, but it is packed up right now since it's only been a, um, er, ah, YEAR since we moved into our new house.

Hee hee hee, you're gonna love your present. I hope.

Re Mom's stuff, please do offer anything to the neighbors that they would like. And THANK YOU AGAIN for taking care of this, even though you *think* you don't deserve to be thanked.