This article is by Carolyn Henderson, the managing half of Steve Henderson Fine Art. A regular contributing writer for FineArtViews, Carolyn also writes a weekly blog on Artist Daily. Her alter ego, Middle Aged Plague, publishes lifestyle articles in online and in print newspapers and on her blog site. Recently, Carolyn has collected 30 of these essays each into two e-books, Life Is A Gift (Ordinary Life Is Beautiful) and The Jane Austen Driving School. She has also written Grammar Despair, a writing guide for ordinary people who don’t jump with joy discussing dangling participial phrases and the difference between subordinate and insubordinate clauses.
Merry Christmas, my friends.
If you are reading this Tuesday morning, I will most likely be in the living room of my home, surrounded by my noisy, messy, lovable tribe, and we will spend two hours opening gifts -- One. At. A. Time.
Six adults: each one buys the other a small gift. We all watch as each gift is opened, then hear the story from the giver as to why that particular item was chosen or made. Two hours, easy: add in Toddler and her stash, and we'll go over.
Regardless of where you stand on Christmas -- whether or not you celebrate it at all; recoil/have no problem with the terms "Merry Christmas" and/or "Happy Holidays;" think that Santa is just fine/a secular dervish; and eat ham/tofu-turkey for dinner, a singular point about the day is that it involves the concept of gifts.
Gifts, by their very nature, are things that we cannot and do not earn. Sometimes we give them; sometimes we receive them -- if the former, they deserve our attention, thought, and joyful participation; if the latter, they deserve to be acknowledged and used. Any gift represents a sacrifice on the part of the giver -- time, money, self -- and it is only fitting that the receiver recognize and express gratitude. Properly done, gift giving results in delight for both sides.
I don't care if it's Aunt Mary's oversized sweater with the pink rhinoceros (oh wait, I think that's a reindeer) on the front. As a knitter, I know how much work went into this, although I can sympathize with the recipient in wishing that Aunt Mary had taken a bit more time before starting the actual project. Love, thought, care, and skill went into each stitch, and as the recipient, we honor Aunt Mary's work by actually using the thing. Not in public, I understand. But when we're home, sick, and want to curl up in something warm and we look like a bedraggled rat that the dog dragged in anyway.
Thank you, Aunt Mary. The sweater's butt ugly, but it's comfy. I feel sad, and horrible, and sick today, but I also feel your love.
In our day to day lives, as human beings and artisans, we have all been given gifts, but many of them we discount or don't recognize in the first place because they look like Aunt Mary's sweater or the TikiTaki wooden candleholders shaped like heads that somebody (not from my side, that's for sure) gives us for our wedding.
"This is useless," we say to ourselves, looking at the tailored leather jacket, sans reindeer, or crystal vases that other people have received as gifts.
But you know what? Leather rips, and crystal breaks; Aunt Mary's sweater is impregnable, the TikiTaki is as strong as marble. They're just . . . not tailored leather jackets or crystal vases.
They are, however, gifts that have been given to you -- you specifically -- because you are so special and so loved that the Giver (He/She/Chance/the Universe -- that's up to you to work through) thought long and hard about what is just right for you, and with great joy and anticipation wrapped this gift and watched, smiling in anticipation, as you opened it.
Did you toss it aside, not seeing its use? A pack of underwear is prosaic and boring, but it's undoubtedly useful. Aunt Mary's sweater -- I know, we've been through this. The point is this: it may not be what you expected or wanted, but it's what you got, and the giver chose it for you for a reason. Take time to honor that person by seriously looking at the gift, and figuring out a way to use it -- respectfully (this means not wiping up the dog mess with the sweater).
Use your gifts -- all of them.
Editor's Note: You can view Carolyn's original post here.