I love Christmas shopping. I am in my element making lists of who to buy for and thinking about what they would like to receive. I love taking the bus into New York City between Thanksgiving and Christmas, checking out the tree in Rockefeller Plaza, the over-the-top window displays at Bergdorf and winding my way through the holiday fair in Bryant Park, searching for the perfect gifts for the people on my list. Not this year. This year here I sit at my computer, surfing the web and placing orders for presents I hope will please.
Considering the state of our economy, it seems like a good year to be less gift-oriented and think more about others. While I can’t imagine a world in which I don’t buy gifts for my grandchildren, they all have more than they need, and I have no desire to add more big pieces of plastic to the landfill. My preference is always to give experiences instead of things, but because of our current lock down a simple gift under the tree is called for. I shared with my oldest son that Mr. Smith and I were cutting back on Christmas spending this year and he obviously passed that information on to my grandsons. Instead of a request for an iPhone or laptop, my youngest grandson asked for a $7 box of colored pencils. That just warms this grandma’s heart!
It is nearly December. Christmas movies are on TV, holiday songs are on the radio, and for the past month I have been buried in emails from retailers, magazines and bloggers featuring holiday gift guides. Best gifts for husbands, for sisters, for teenage boys. The list goes on and on. Some I delete without opening. Some I skim through. And one I read word for word and then read again. Jennifer Connolly writes the blog A Well Styled Life. Her post Gifts from the Heart – Women Helping Women, really struck a chord with me. On her Facebook page she had asked her readers “what’s on your personal gift list?” Their responses brought a lump to her throat, as they did to mine. Many acknowledged they have more than they need and want to help women who do not. This lovely post even includes a link where you can enter your zip code and find shelters in your area which are often so badly in need of support.
The economic fallout from COVID-19 has hit many people hard, with many struggling to pay their bills, keep up with rent and put food on the table. It is heartbreaking to see the lines of cars backed up waiting for food giveaways. After watching a segment on the news regarding the overwhelming need this season, Mr. Smith and I turned to each other is dismay when the commercial following was for a luxury car line that was suggesting a couple of new cars complete with oversized bows in the driveway would make the perfect Christmas gift. I know they have a business to run, but this seems tone deaf to the dire economic climate many are facing.
Like most grandmothers, I love giving gifts. So, what to do? There are many ways individuals who “have enough” can share with others this holiday season. We can shop retailers who give back to the community. TOMS donates a pair of shoes for every pair they sell. Warby Parker donates one pair of eyeglasses for every pair sold. Online pet supply company Chewy partnered with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and is donating and directly distributing $1 million in pet food and supplies to pet parents in underserved and impoverished rural areas, helping families care for their pets during the pandemic. Everlane, Bombas and so many more give back all year long. How fun to find the perfect gift and support companies that care at the same time! If you find yourself continually turning to Amazon this holiday season, you can sign up for Amazon Smile, pick your favorite charity and a portion of your purchases will be donated. If you have the time and inclination, you can contact your local Salvation Army or other charity to “adopt” a family for Christmas. And if you can afford it, you can write a check to your favorite charity.
Like everyone, I am looking forward to a return to normal life next year. It would be wonderful to be able to get out and Christmas shop, stop for hot chocolate and attend holiday parties. I have wonderful memories of lunch by The Great Tree in the Walnut Room at Marshall Field’s in Chicago as a young girl. I loved the years I would get up in the dark and spend Black Friday with my friend Lou Anne, looking for elusive bargains but mostly just enjoying having a day together.
Someday soon I’m hoping to make new memories and take my grandsons on their first trip into New York City to see the Rockettes’ Christmas Spectacular and do a little shopping. I want to walk through department stores again and admire their wares. I want to stop at a little wine bar and enjoy a glass of champagne with Mr. Smith. I am filled with gratitude for my good fortune and want to remember how quickly life can change, that instead of shopping for Christmas gifts for their children, many parents are suddenly grappling with how to put food on the table because of a family crisis, illness, or even a pandemic. If there was ever a holiday to share, it is 2020. To reach out with kindness, support and donations because there but for the quixotic randomness of Mother Nature , could go you or I.
C’est la vie.