Christmas Wishes

It’s Christmas time. I’m not going to be politically correct and state that it’s “the holiday season” or any other such nonsense.
The season is winter, holidays occur throughout the year and everyone from every religion in any country that has in any way been in even tangential contact with western culture knows that it’s Christmas time. It doesn’t matter whether they celebrate it as a Christian tradition, a calendar based sales platform originally set up by Coca-Cola, or don’t even celebrate Christmas at all.Merry Christmas

To me, Christmas is vacation, food and presents. Yes, presents. Friends and family too, they’re very important, but I see friends and family all the time; I only get presents twice a year. On my birthday I throw a party, taking care of drinks and food for all attendants, and with Christmas, I give as much as I get. So it’s actually not really about the ‘getting something’, nor is it about the monetary value of the gifts. At least, not for me. But every year I’m asked again for a list of things I would like and every year I have a little more trouble coming up with ideas for myself.

“What do you want for Christmas?” my mother asks. Or my girlfriend, or her sister. Surely, it’s great when someone imagines the perfect gift for you all on their own, but that’s rare and we shouldn’t expect that. Nor should we get annoyed at someone who just wants to get you something you actually want.Can't think of anything

“I don’t really know,” I answer, feeling pressured. I would like to ask for something that they would like to give as well as something I would like to receive. It can’t be too expensive, nor too cheap (too cheap can be insulting, trivializing their efforts). The best gifts also tend to be the ones the giver can understand: a gift the giver could conceivably be happy to be given.

“Argh, you’re so frustrating. Isn’t there anything you need?” Damn. Needs. Now my Christmas wish list has dragged me into an existential crisis of weighing ‘needs’ against ‘wants’. I know what I need. I think I know what everyone needs: a supportive social network, the proper amount of sleep, a healthy diet, exercise, emotionally fulfilling vocational pursuits and financial security. I have lots of good friends, I eat well and I exercise regularly. So, all I need is sleep, a job I like and money. I can only really ask for money as a gift.Money

“Ehh, yeah. I need a lot of stuff. But I don’t know, I’ll think about it.” I’m not going to ask for money for Christmas. Sure, it might help me sleep and it would definitely make rent a lot less unreasonably scary, but I’m not going to ask for impersonal, dirty, cold cash for Christmas. Mariah Carey didn’t sing “All I need for Christmas”, nor does the caroling classic sound “On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to meeeee: two-hundred and seventy-threeeeee”. I’m not ready to let my needs become my wants and in some way I think that means I’m not ready to let go of my childhood.Sponserberleries

Yes yes, childhood, bla bla. Sentimental bs. But that’s Christmas time: one of the most important times of the year for children, sustained by the good-intentioned lies of their parents. Thinking about a wish list made me think about growing up, about maturing, becoming an adult. How I don’t want to be an adult, how I’m maturing poorly and how I’m not doing too well growing up. It made me think about the wish lists I had when I was a kid.

When I was a kid I knew exactly what I wanted. I wanted the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figure Fugitoid. I wanted a Lego spaceship. I wanted a sword. I wasn’t getting a sword (yet), but I wanted it. Oohh, I needed it. My want felt like a need. If you would’ve asked me “What do you need?”, I would’ve given you the exact same answer. You could argue that as a kid, I had no real concept of wants and needs. My survival needs were taken care of, so all I had left to myself were my wants. Then again, in her seasonal super hit Mariah Carey also sings “There is just one thing I need”.I'll die

My ‘wants’ felt like ‘needs’. Some ‘wants’ still do feel like ‘needs’, but it’s not the same; it’s all abstract, philosophical crap, like love. As a kid I wanted silly things. I got excited about toys, stuff that would be of the lowest priority in a survival situation. But I knew what they were, what they could do and what they were for. Fugitoid was a fugitive android, home to the mind of Professor Honeycutt and friend to the Turtles. He was fully articulated and had a hollow chest compartment. He was going to take part in epic battles and adventures. See? Clear.Fugitoid

Money is quite clear too: throw it at a problem, problem goes away. If you want to be a functioning, independent adult, you will need money. Implying that you’ll have lots of problems, but I won’t get into that. Sometimes you might think you want money, but what you really want is what the money can buy. And I’m afraid that my ‘needs’ will become my ‘wants’; that my ‘wants’ will be those intangible things that can neither be bought nor gifted, or money, because I need it.

I want to want tangible things for Christmas. I want the innocence of an action figure with death-grip. I want silly ‘wants’ to have the power to make me feel like I need them. I want to look at a Christmas tree and feel excitement, not remember it wistfully. And I want other people to feel the same way. So, this Christmas, or whatever occasion in which you find yourself needing a ‘want’, ask for something silly. If you’ve already asked for money, take some of that money and go do something or get something frivolous. We all need a lot of things, but we can take care of those things during the rest of the year. After all, Santa doesn’t spread maintenance of the status quo; he spreads joy.Christmas tree

Nice day out

She sat down in the clothes that had been lain out for her and opened the envelope on her dressing table. In it were a small note, some money and various slips of paper.

 

Good morning! I hope you like the dress. I’m sorry I can’t be with you on your first day in the city. To make it up to you, here are tickets and coupons to fill your day with fun and relaxation! Enjoy yourself and don’t worry, I’ll be back to join you in no time! 

I love you, honey XOX 

ps. Say hi to the guy down the hall. He’s our (temporary) roommate and he kind of helped me put this day for you together. 

pps. Don’t worry about the vanity! I’m having the mirror fixed!

 

She loved the dress. It was her favourite colour. She started leafing through the tickets and coupons. They seemed to be stacked in order of succession: a fancy breakfast at a hotel, a bus tour around the city, a hotdog with everything on it…

“A hotdog isn’t real food and you know it,” she said with a half smile.

…a ticket to an expressionist art exhibition at the museum, a three course meal at a French-Spanish restaurant and finally Don Giovanni, her third favourite opera.

“I love you too, honey.”

She smoothed down her dress and got ready to go.

“I wish I had that mirror now,” she said, admiring the lace. She noticed her hands were a bit rough.

A knock at the door.

“Yes, hello?”

“Ma’am, there’s a taxi for you outside.”

“Oh!” she was surprised he had even thought of that. She opened the door. A tall, skinny young man was walking down the hall.

“Thank you!”

He turned his head.

“Excuse me?”

“Oh, I said thank you. Thank you for helping my husband with arranging such a wonderful day.”

“It was my pleasure, ma’am,” he adjusted his glasses, turned and walked down the hall.

“Well, yes it was, it was very kind of you,” she said quietly to his retreating back.

She went downstairs to catch her cab.

The taxi dropped her off at the hotel. She had Belgian waffles with cream and fresh fruit and two mimosas. She sat by the window, watching the people go by, wondering if they all were off to work or if any were lucky enough to have the day off, like her.

“I love having a day off on a workday,” she said to the waiter clearing her table, ”It feels special, like I’m on vacation.”

“I’m sure miss. I’d love to have today off.”

She blushed a little, thinking she might have offended him. She turned away to look outside. Her reflection looked odd. But then she noticed the tour bus right outside and realized she needed to hurry. She left the voucher and a tip on the table and rushed outside.

The tour was wonderful. She loved learning things about the world and the history of how things came to be. It all felt horribly familiar to her, but that didn’t dampen her enjoyment. It was a nice day and the tour guide had a nice voice and made corny, but funny jokes. Most modern cities must seem alike in many ways.

After the three hour tour she was feeling a bit peckish and debated whether she should skip off program to find something other than a hotdog. In the end she decided to trust her husband, but wouldn’t go so far as to leave the relish on.

The art exhibition had a certain hit and miss quality to it. For every piece that demanded at least fifteen minutes of her time, there were ten that she surmised were more the product of good sales qualities than actual painting talent. The museum was huge though, and more than large enough for her to fill an afternoon. However, one particular painting caught her eye.

“I just love this piece,” she said to what seemed to be an arts student, who sat off to the side, behind an easel, sketching the painting. “I get the feeling I’ve known it all my life.”

“I know right? The juxtaposition of the real imagined with the esoterica of the assumed experience really cuts deep. I’m going to write my thesis on his collected works.”

“That’s nice.”

She sat there for the better part of forty five minutes in silence, before getting up to make her way towards the exit.

The sun had started to set outside, bathing the glass of the surrounding buildings in its warm hues. She headed off towards the restaurant. Her voucher came in a beautiful little envelope that also contained a small city map. It was only a few blocks down from the museum, so she decided to walk.

Her table was waiting for her when she arrived and she felt a little silly at first, seated alone, but forgot all about it when the food arrived. The meal was exquisite. The first course was a spicy fish with lemon and rosemary and it had little bubbles of some sugary substance on it that each released a puff of paprika infused smoke when she burst them with her fork. The main course was thinly sliced salt cured ham and a cutlet of slow roasted ham sprinkled with crystallized coffee. For dessert she was given a small bowl of champagne and a small bowl filled with little balls of orange spun sugar, which she would dip in the champagne, causing them to snap and crackle and explode with sweet, orangey flavour in her mouth.

Sated and content she checked the time and figured she would have just enough time to quickly go to the restroom. The restroom mirror had been covered with a trash bag and tape.

“Here, honey, would you like to use my mirror?” an older lady next to her offered her a small pocket mirror.

“Oh, yes please, thank you.”

She could barely see more than her lips in the small mirror. She reapplied lipstick to her admirably done mirror-less job from that morning. She noticed a few dark lines at the corners of her mouth and tried to rub them away, only to find they were wrinkles.

“I’m sorry, honey, but I should be getting back to my table.”

“Yes. Yes, I’m sorry. Thank you again.”

“Wasn’t nothing, dear, but you’re welcome anyways.”

She followed the older woman out and went back to her table to pay. Once again, she left the voucher and this time, a very nice tip. She asked the waiter for directions to the opera house and he offered to call for a cab.

She enjoyed the opera. She loved the outdated comedic situations by Da Ponte and the score by Mozart, but she could never really take the serious parts seriously. She would always joke with her husband that she would kill him herself before some statue could if he pulled any of Don Giovanni’s tricks.

The last of the money was more than enough for the taxi home. She figured she’d give the rest to the young man down the hall as a thank you. She went up to her room, hung up her beautiful new dress and got ready to go to bed. She read the note her husband had left her one last time, pressed a lipstick kiss on it and slid between the sheets, tired but deeply, deeply satisfied.

 

It was the dead of night when the young man quietly slid into her room. He let the dress hang where she had hung it herself and lightly snuck over to the dressing table. He picked up the note and was about to slide it into an envelope filled with slips of paper when he saw the lipstick kiss. He sighed softly and in the dim light from the hallway he copied the note onto a clean piece of paper. He slid the new note into the envelope, closed it and placed it on the table. He made his way back to the door, pausing right before he closed it.

“Goodnight mom,” he said, softly.