Once again I think I've gone overboard on gifts. What does it say about me that I never think that what I'm giving is sufficient? Where along the way did I bury the idea that one thoughtful gift chosen with love was enough? And of course, my children must always have the same number of presents to open, even though they open their presents now in separate homes, with partners, who must also have the same number of gifts from my husband and me, and again, not just one. Now that everything is wrapped and in bags, waiting to be delivered, I can see that I've been excessive. Neither of my children expects anything at all, so why do I set this pace, year after year, of marathon gift-giving?
I think maybe its genesis lies in my feeling like a lonely outpost in an adopted country during this season, trying to replicate for my children the experience of my childhood in Jamaica, where multitudes of aunts and uncles and my parents' large circle of friends brought gifts at Christmas, and our tree was laden on Christmas morning. How ridiculous of me to try to recreate that bounty for my children, when their circumstances were so different from my own childhood, and they had no expectations at all about what Christmas should be, except what I fed to them. And now they are grown, and I am still apparently unable to moderate myself, clicking and buying that one more thing that I happen across that I feel sure they'll love, or use, or find whimsy in.
I'm a little embarrassed, really. These stuffed bags of gifts in exquisite wrapping paper—my mother always used exquisite wrapping paper, with bows on every present—say so much more about my own sense of want than about what will truly thrill and delight my children, who tell me again and again that they need nothing. I credit their temperance in this regard to their father, who is of the one-well-chosen-gift school of thought, who shakes his head as the boxes arrive at our door, but let's me be, because this is who he married. Yet I can't help but feel I'm being a little obscene not to have curbed myself better in this year when so many families find themselves unable to give even that one gift.
My daughter is with us for the week, and will join her boyfriend and his family for Christmas morning upstate, before they both head back to Boston for his second semester of business school. We all had a bit of a scare two weeks ago when one member of their cohort bubble on campus tested positive for covid, and they'd seen him and his partner just three days before. Fortunately, his worst symptom was a crashing headache that lasted for days, and fatigue. His girlfriend, my daughter's best friend in her new town, soon developed the same symptoms, and yesterday she texted my girl that at precisely 5 p.m. she had suddenly found herself unable to smell or taste anything.
My daughter and her love quarantined scrupulously for two weeks and took three tests each during that time, all of them mercifully negative. My niece, who had just returned to live with us after three months in Orlando, also tested negative a week after she returned. She wore masks in the house and mostly stayed in her room until she got her test result, and she made her boyfriend get tested too before she would see him. He, too, was negative.
The truth is, we have no idea how to stay one hundred percent safe in this covid world, but we're doing our best. We won't see our son for Christmas, he's working that day and night, but he's coming by later this afternoon to exchange gifts and see his sister. He will be masked while he is here. As a front line worker in the city, he will be receive the Moderna vaccine just after the New Year, but as I understand it, that only guarantees that if he gets infected, he'll be able to fight it off with minimal symptoms, though there's no telling if he will still be able to infect others while his immune system rallies.
We're not doing much of anything on Christmas day, other than cooking a meal. We're keeping everything determinedly low-key. I wager I'll be working on that day like every other, as I'm still trundling along trying to hit my due dates. Just popping in now to say hey, I hope you and your beloveds are doing well. Please stay safe, and I send you love.