There are a couple of situations I recently found myself in where I couldn’t help but take a pregnant pause, a quick step back, and slap myself across the face, leaving me to beg the question of, “Did I…just…say…that?”
Phrases that the younger, stay-up-till 4am, travel-the-world-in-a-suitcase, jump-off-cliffs-in-Croatia version of myself would never, ever believe I’d say. Like:
- “Isn’t the music in this club a little loud? Do you think they could turn the volume down a little?”
- “Wow, this drink is filled with high fructose corn syrup AND aspartame!”
- “I woke up at 9:30am on a Saturday? Gosh, that’s late!”
- “I really don’t want any presents this year for Hanukkah“
The last one, I’ll admit, took a little bit longer to believe. Of course I love presents. I live in New York City where 3/4 of my paycheck goes straight my rent and the rest of my loose change goes toward my $1 slices of ‘zza. A nice new winter coat would be lovely. A ticket to see Rock of Ages would be grand. Hey, I’ll even take a lump sum to pay off the fines I owe at the library across the street (thank you brother for helping me solve that problem with a gift card to The Strand).
I was 9 when I fell in love with my first “thing.” It was a shiny Razor Scooter® from Sharper Image® and every time it popped up in a commercial, I’d see these middle schoolers zooming away to their friend’s houses, to the park, or even just to race one another. I wondered if I could travel the world on it. Either way — it was freedom, it was adventure, it was everything I had ever wanted. At 9-years-old, and I just had to have one.
I started crafting and implementing my master plan in June that by December, for Hanukkah, I would be the proud new owner of a fancy two-wheeler machine. I saved up my pennies (and my patience) and became a model citizen by doing extra chores and getting stellar grades at school. It consumed my thoughts, picturing my blonde hair crawling out the sides of my helmet as I whizzed past the parentals.
That Razor Scooter now rests in peace behind rusting baseball bats and old warped records in my parent’s garage, too worn out for my 5″7 clumsy frame to use.
During a morning chat with my mom last week, we mooned over how we wouldn’t get to spend Hanukkah together this year, and how more than any new sweater, pair of socks, or two-wheeling scooter, the only present that mattered was spending time with each other.
In the most endearing way, she reminded me that Hanukkah and the holidays are special because of the people you spend them with, the food you use to anchor conversational laughter together, and the simplistic way you can be lounging around in your jammies, doing nothing, and feeling everything. It’s a time to be happy for exactly what you have, she reminded me with ease, making me whole-heartedly believe my jibber-jabber about presents meaning absolutely nothing at this age.
As you grow older, you realize the best presents are people, wrapped up in bows, strategically placed across the country from you, or on the opposite side of the coast. It’s not things that you want, though you may get sudden tingles and urges for new things, it’s all about the real, live, people that surround you. Hugs, or anecdotes, or simply just snuggling up on a couch, catching occasional glances, is the deep breath that makes the turn of the New Year feel promising, and the leftovers of the old year seem to be rotting away and no longer at harm.
In our 20′s, our hearts become as intimate as our tiny studio apartments and as cramped as the suitcases we live out of for days at a time. That’s when we start to realize the things we hold onto, strive for, consume our jumbled spaces with, are just the compassion and the love people have the power and the will to give us.
I do love presents. I enjoy ripping open wrapping paper with my teeth and exposing a thought-out gift given to me from a loved one. But with this whole growing up, no space, no time, no patience for things, what will always trump any gift suffocated in tissue paper, is the chance to spend time with the actual person who put it in the mail.
In the literal sense, I don’t mean the person who shipped it to me from Amazon or Craigslist, though I’m sure those people are lovely).