Two Sizes Too Small

What I really love about the holiday season is staying in, enjoying the quietude of my house, staying warm when it’s cold outside, enjoying holiday foods and music, and generally feeling warm and cozy. What I do not really love about the holiday season is the travel and the series of obligations and expenses. That is the phase of Christmas break about to begin.

Thursday I’ll be heading back to my hometown to visit my father, brother, and stepmother for the holiday. I don’t see them all that often so I’m looking forward to spending some time together. I just wish there were some magical way that I could preemptively edit out all the parts where they criticize my diet, ask me about the academic job market, talk about politics, and invite me to go shoot guns with them. That would winnow the trip down to a manageable few hours or so.

While I’m throwing out impossible Christmas wishes, I also wish we had a family tradition of exchanging gift wish lists. You know, so that I had any clue as to what to give them (and they me, of course). We are complete and total opposites and I always find myself at a total loss. I don’t think I am hard to shop for, but apparently I am. I have very definite, specific, well-known hobbies and interests (photography, running, cycling, cooking) but I usually walk away with something along the lines of a calendar of cat pictures, or a throw-blanket with cats embroidered on it. Because I have a cat. They don’t even realize, for example, that I don’t actually like my cat and in fact prefer my dog.

I don’t think I’m a materialistic person and in no way do I feel like I should receive expensive presents or anything. It’s not about that. A calendar with dachshund pictures instead, for example, would actually go a long way toward soothing my crankiness. It’s just these gifts sometimes feel like an empty gesture: a disconnected and unconcerned gesture of obligation. This aspect of Christmas always makes me sad.

When I ask them what they would like, I just get a non-answer. “Oh, nothing special.” “Don’t worry about it.” “Whatever.” And then whatever I buy winds up collecting dust, still in its packaging, on some forgotten shelf five to ten years later.

This whole entry sounds horrible, doesn’t it? I just feel like when you know a person well, it’s easy to think of things they might like to receive as gifts. So it doesn’t seem like we know each other that well. Couldn’t we just start using Amazon wish lists so we could fake it, at least? Grumble.

Well, I don’t mean to be so Grinchy. I really am looking forward to most aspects of the trip. Especially the night when my brother and I try to collaboratively cook Christmas dinner. Apparently all of his cookware is cast iron and “seasoned” with bacon fat. That should make a good story, at least. Let’s just say the bottle of wine will remain uncorked. Happy Holidays!


  1. No, this entry sounds right. The gifts probably are the empty results of obligation. My family has a habit of asking what I want then buying me none of it, so at least this year they didn’t bother asking. I’d rather just keep my $200 and let them keep their money, and then go over for like an hour to see grandma.


  2. Oh honey. I’m sorry. That … well, that doesn’t sound like an ideal Christmas, but maybe this will be the one that turns it all around! Or you can just go for long runs and come back and get drunk. Whatever.


  3. Thanks, y’all. As with most things, I think the anticipation is the worst part. Once I get there, as long as no one tries to start a fight about Obama, it should be fun.


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