A friend here in Jacksonville has a charming Christmas tradition: Each year, he writes his brother a check for one million dollars. Coincidentally, the brother has the same tradition. In this way, they exchange extravagant gifts without any of the stress or guilt most of us now associate with this time of year.
Really, it makes more sense than exchanging gift cards. It makes more sense than my holiday routine of getting online and dispatching generic presents of dubious value, none of which I’ve actually seen or touched. At least a personal check requires a personal signature. Sealing it in an envelope requires some personal saliva. I would like to suggest to all my adult loved ones that we start giving each other checks of identically insane amounts — and, since we’ve already got the pen and paper out, maybe enclosing a personal message too.
I’ll tell you something: After about age 13, Christmas is no longer about the gifts. Well, it is about the gifts to the extent that you’re always kind of disappointed, and what you get is somehow never precisely what you want. Then after about age 27, you realize that even if you did get precisely what you wanted, that would suck too because there is no way you got the other person precisely what they wanted. And finally you look at all the useless crap piling up around the house and realize that none of it means a damned thing without the people who picked it out. I’ve got a lot of stuff I never use, but will never throw away because someone I love gave it to me.
I don’t hate Christmas. Far from it. I love that little seasonal bump in bonhomie. I love the food and drink. I love the lights. I could really do without the shopping, online or otherwise, but if that’s the cost of letting people know I’m still here, so be it. Happy holidays. And I’ll be looking for that check in the mail.