One Christmas, when I was a gappy-toothed, precocious firecracker of a eight year old, I received every single present I asked for. I remember how just weeks from Christmas I told my aunts the list of things I wished for on a family walk, how the day’s summer-heated glare was finally smudging into cooler dusk, the cicadas clamouring in the long grass as we wandered by. As my aunts took significant, obvious interest in my wish list to Santa, I began carefully bringing up the items I really wanted. An ornament stand. Pretty things to go on it. A new-fangled doona (eiderdown) to replace my blankets. A paint brush set. Things that I knew cost a bazillion dollars, and so wouldn’t get. But could still hope for.
Christmas arrived, and I still remember sprawling under the tree in my favourite cotton pyjamas opening up my first present – two tiny dog figurines. Every present I opened was something I had mentioned, casually or with desperate longing, in conversation weeks earlier, and I had to lie down (on my new doona!) with an icepack later that day to cool my poor, over-extended grinning muscles, still wriggling in delight at my bounty.
It was only years later that I realised that my family had been terrified I was going to die from a severe recurring allergic reaction, and they had decided I was going to have the perfect gift—whichever one it was on my list.
Christmas seems to be the time where the pressure is on to find That Special Someone (or, usually, several Someone of Varying Specialness) THE GIFT TO END ALL GIFTS. You know, the present that will make their awesome/average/contented/unhappy/whatever life perfect, due solely to YOUR incredible benediction. The pressure to perform is immense, intense and usually doomed to failure. Any shop open at 11pm on Christmas Eve bears witness to the madness that falls on the present procrastinator, to be surpassed only by the desperation felt by the receiver the next day on trying to hide their horror/dismay/fury/hilarity/confusion at the object sitting/rolling/leaning/hopefully-not-breathing-or-whining in their hands.
There’s danger inherent in gift giving. Maybe they won’t like it. Maybe they’ll even say so. Maybe the time, effort and inspiration you put into that present will be tossed away, unappreciated. Maybe the little token you pass to someone is taken to mean something it doesn’t, spiralling you both into future madness and chaos? Maybe the pressure is just too much?
Because after all, if my secret wish for several Christmases was to be locked in a (super-lush) hotel room for 24 hours on my own, unable to speak to, see or touch another person, what was the likelihood of getting that perfect present? Particularly if I didn’t tell anyone? Particularly knowing it simply couldn’t happen? Sometimes the perfect gift just isn’t possible.
Except in our own private, For-Segullah-Eyes-Only wish list! So, ladies. An hour’s go-carting? Learning how to scuba dive? A 48-hour movie marathon? To not have the baby on Christmas day? The ability and opportunity to dance like Beyonce? A particular book and uninterrupted time to read it in? A “Get out of Gaol/Jail Free” card? If you could receive it, what would be your ‘perfect present’ this year? (And in the interest of Miss World/Universe/Perfection 2011, requests for ‘world peace’ will not be accepted).
What is your wish? Do you tell people your wish-list? Do you expect to receive a present this Christmas? Do you know what it is? If not, do you think it will be a good one? Have you ever received a particularly perfect or appalling present, and if so, details please!