Last night, my wife and her sister and I talked about our memories of Christmases past and, especially, Christmas gifts. I do not recall many of the Christmas gifts I received over the years. As much as I know they were selected to surprise and please me, most of them have become cloudy memories or have simply disappeared into the forgotten fog. My wife and I have long since dispensed with the tradition of gift-giving at Christmas. We sometimes exchange Christmas stockings (which we will do this year), but the exchange of gifts seems generally artificial and unnecessary. Unlike many of my friends, Christmas holds little significance for me, though I cling to it as a secular holiday. That secular holiday meant much more to me in my youth than today. I suppose I still hold onto the wish that the Christmas season might bring humanity closer together, but that wish ignores the fact that Christmas, even my own secular Christmas, obviates the beliefs of non-Christian religions. I tag along for the Christmas ride. I know, of course, its significance to devout Christians; but Christmas holds no religious meaning for me.
Well, that was an unintended detour from my Christmas gift tale! I’ll resume what I planned to write. My earliest, and perhaps my most vivid, recollection of a Christmas gift is one I received when I must have been around six or seven years old. One of my brothers gave me a wind-up toy monkey (maybe a chimpanzee) that sat in a chair and, when sufficiently wound up, moved its arm up and down so that the banana in its hand reached its mouth just as its mouth opened. That toy fascinated me. I am not certain why that particular gift remains in my memory; perhaps it’s because I have seen pictures of me holding that toy (though I’m not sure that’s the case; if so, it has been many years since I’ve seen the picture).
Though my memories of Christmas experiences are a bit clearer than my memory of the gifts, many of them are almost as foggy and imprecise. But I have distinct memories of spending a Christmas, just a few years ago, with my brother and his wife at their home in Ajijic, a lakeside town south of Guadalajara. I wish we’d been able to do that again this year. Experiences are more valuable than things. Always, always, always.