Sunday, December 3, 2023

I don't want anything

is something I used to say, when someone would ask me what I wanted for my birthday, for Christmas. I have everything I need, is what I was thinking. And if there was something I really wanted, I could buy it for myself. 

But recognizing that other people were trying to check me off their lists, I might throw out a suggestion. Say, slippers. 

And then I would get the slippers, and it would feel silly to me. Like, why are we all doing this, going through the gift motions, sending each other our suggestions, often very specific ones, with sizes and styles and helpful Amazon links? And never mind all of the waste and the rampant consumerism and who needs more stuff stuffing up their houses. So, when someone asked me what I wanted, my husband, for example, I'd say, I don't want anything, and he'd get upset, and I couldn't understand why. 

We were locked in this gift-giving/no-gift-giving dance for years, some years with him throwing up his hands in weary resignation and not getting me anything. Some years with him buying the slippers and wrapping them in front of me and making a show of putting them under the tree.  

But the truth is it wasn't all about my stance on waste and rampant consumerism, or how, in general, I believe we as a culture have too much stuff. There was more swirling around under the murky surface of my not-wanting. Money, being the big one, 

and how in the early years of our marriage, I was stressed out by debts and bills, and why not take myself and any gifts for me off the list? Which goes even deeper into an old childhood self, who was keenly aware that there was no money, so don't bother asking, and if you are given a gift, then you must be eternally grateful for it, 

and isn't it so much easier to not want anything.

What I was never taking into account, though, was how much I enjoy giving other people gifts. Last year I turned gift-buying for my husband into a mini scavenger hunt of sorts, seeing what I could find by only browsing in the shops within walking distance of our house. I had a blast putting together a cactus for him in the cactus making shop and choosing a model car kit in the hobby store and stumbling onto a set of glass beakers in a thrift store that I realized would look perfect lined up on the windowsill by his desk. My only exception to the within-walking-distance rule was the tickets I get for him every year to the Car Show, which I know he loves, and isn't that what all of this is about? 

The little charge of delight as someone you love opens a gift you've picked out specially for them. 

And then it suddenly occurred to me that this is what my husband has wanted to do for me, and here I've been denying him all these years. 

All of this is to say that I really don't want anything. Except for one thing. His delight. My delight. As we choose each other's gifts. As we share them with each other. 


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