Christmas presents don’t do anything good at all

It’s a sunny Sunday afternoon and a mobile bank has been the source of much merriment in my neighbourhood. I enjoy winding down with a bag of toys and blasting Wagner on a portable surround sound system with a load of lucky neighbours.

I am quick with my words. It’s the calming conversational tool that turns me into my most patient audience. I’m already a little panicky and unsettled; I’ve lost another yard of my running kit and the pathway into my apartment is prone to accidents that might have left me in a wheelchair by now if I hadn’t been prepped so. It was snowing so hard the second last time I jumped in the car; I squashed the windscreen under my nose when I felt the wind zap my face in. It’s a world of necessity; I always have a coat, jacket and phone jacket available and an emergency pendant.

It’s also a world of possibility. Knowing the right pendant to use, as I am tonight, only heightens the anxiety I feel on a normal day. Like countless elderly people, I am aware that at some point I will no longer be able to drive. I don’t know how my children will get me anywhere or where I will live when I go. When I was younger, I would have tried to find out. I might have driven my parents to the store or bought my own for them. I would have gone buy them their own suits. How would I get around or shop for them? It would be unexpected and ruinous, of course, but I would have tried to find a way. Now, life is so unfair, so full of unpredictable factors, that I think I’m completely alone. I would have been a bloody great deal more assertive than I am now.

You could argue that giving unneeded presents doesn’t help people as much as giving useful items that will be used in everyday life – if I need gloves I can buy them. Or if I need dinner, I can eat out.

No one can afford to give without thinking about their impact. Christmas presents are a fine example of this. To me they feel cheap, because there is no small amount of feeling attached to the ‘goodie’. I’ll remember this cardboard box with a beautiful trim, covered in little snowflakes on the top, before it goes away. A year after it passed, though, the parents will look at the box. They will have climbed up the escalator, within their sights of the shelves of its neighbour, Target. If there is a child in the house and they are picking their cards out, they will pick up the gift card. They will rush back to the table, clutching it, and quickly put in their PIN. They’ll work out if it’s safe enough to keep it. If it’s bigger or smaller than they had anticipated.

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