At least it is for me this year.
Having spent the last seven months on the road with Ace, and being temporarily shacked up in a trailer park in the desert, I decided that all the gifts I give my family members in Arizona will be items that I have tested and gently broken in.
Because “used” is such a harsh word.
I don’t feel guilty about this at all — for several reasons. For one, my father announced he and his wife are not giving, and don’t want to receive, presents this year. They live on a fixed income. I live on a broken one. So it works out just fine.
Then, too, as you regular readers know, part of Travels with Ace is seeing how cheaply we can pull off our time on the road — an attempt to spend no more money than we were while living in a rented house in Baltimore. We’ve managed, mostly, to do that, and I don’t want to allow the crass commercial side of Christmas to set back all we have achieved in that regard.
As far as the receiving side, facing the long journey back east in my already overstuffed car, any new items for me, at least those that aren’t cash, or are bigger than a breadbox, would be problematic — except for maybe a nice warm sweater, or perhaps some gloves.
In my view, though gifts aren’t what Christmas is all about, a totally giftless Christmas would be wrong. So I don’t intend to comply fully with my father’s no-gifts edict. Instead, I will put my own spin on it.
He and his wife, and my brother and his partner, who all live in the Phoenix area, will be receiving items from me that — while they have made my weeks in Petite Acres, a trailer park in Cave Creek, more comfortable — were purchased with them, at least partially, in mind.
True, they are items that I can’t or don’t want to haul back to Baltimore; and, yes, they are items that, for a brief period, served my purposes. But far more important than that is the spirit of giving in which I will bestow them, once I’m done with them.
One red chiminea.
(Not to be confused with a chimichanga, this is a big clay pot with a smokestack — available at most local Western-Mexican-Indian gift shops in the area — in which you can build an outdoor fire. I am not merely “using” the chiminea to keep myself from being cold at night, and add a warm glow to my dirt yard. I am lovingly breaking it in — seasoning it and tempering it, if you will — before I deliver it to my brother on Christmas day. Though Ace has been tempted to pee on it, because it resembles a fire hydrant, I am pretty sure he hasn’t.)
Two big coffee mugs — one red, one blue.
(What better symbolizes the warmth of the season than a brightly-colored coffee mug, filled with the steaming hot beverage of your choice? The fact that only one coffee mug came with my trailer, and was usually dirty, was not the main reason I bought these for my father and his wife. Rather, it was a well-though out gift purchase, based on their desire not to have things that take up much space, and a mental note I made during a visit to their house that, while they had coffee mugs, they had no sizeable, gayly colored ones.)
(Even more gayly colored and festive, this gift purchase, I reasoned, would help keep my father and his wife warm at night, and would be ideal for snuggling under while watching a little TV, and they do have a little TV. That Ace and I tested it out — that it may have a few dog hairs on it and smell like cigarette smoke by the time I give it to them — are but small concerns when one looks at the bigger picture and true meaning of Christmas.)
Two bags of Cave Creek Coffee holiday blend.
(The Cave Creek Coffee Company was having a buy-one-get-one-half-price sale on their holiday blend. So I bought two and got two for half price. I would like to make it clear that the ones I’m giving as gifts to my father and brother are those for which I paid fully, while I’m hanging on to the half-price ones — allowing me to test it, making sure the blend is both savory and festive.)
So, you see, while they may have briefly fulfilled my modest needs, these gifts, I’m sure you understand, are not really “used,” or even “pre-owned” — for I don’t look at my relationship with them as that of owner-and-item.
Rather, my time with them has been fleeting — just enough to allow me to share in their joy before passing that joy on to others, at once “paying it forward” and ensuring that said items are indeed quality merchandise that will go on to bring my family members countless years of happiness.
So when I sit outside as the sun sets, under a festive Indian blanket, drinking Cave Creek holiday blend from a brightly colored coffee mug and keeping my feet toasty in the warm glow of a chiminea, I am thinking not of myself, but of how much pleasure my purchases will, eventually, bring my family members.
Yes, I’m quite a guy.