Somehow, cruising a shopping mall with a brand new pair of jeans (that fit!) and a new sweater made the Christmas season seem bright again.
It helped to be wandering in the presence of someone unremittingly positive.
My sweet and lovely sister-in-law is the kind of person you just can't refrain from loving. The entire afternoon, she chirped about the presents she had found for her grandchildren, her children, her mother, and how cute they were, how much this person likes that sort of thing, how she was creating new traditions with the grand kids, how she was looking forward to a trip to see her daughter, on and on, positive and upbeat. She clearly loves the 'giving' part of the holiday, not really thinking about the work or the potential disappointment that can come with high hopes. It was so refreshing to hear about someone's plans rather than their troubles.
But oh, she's a sneaky one and when she handed me a copy of a movie I'd been eyeing up, calling it 'not really a Christmas present', because I had to loan it to her, I remembered what I've always thought the gift-giving of Christmas is supposed to be about. It's not supposed to be the drudgery of 'having to come up with something' for your family members, but instead should be about listening to them and paying attention so your gift to them is also a gift for yourself: the satisfaction of knowing you pleased them.
I used to love the tradition of drawing names in the family because buying for one person out of the dozen gave me the opportunity to get to know that person better. Since we drew names at the end of the annual gathering, we had a full year to think up our gift. I loved spending the time thinking about someone else, asking about them, learning their needs and likes. It was like playing detective.
And so, in that spirit, after an afternoon of shopping and careful listening and a few minutes of discussion, my sweetie and I figured out what we're going to get for his sister this Christmas. She's going to be surprised and delighted. We hope.
I'll keep you posted, right after I finish putting up my Christmas decorations.