The holidays are a time of connection

Garrison Keillor is one of my favorite authors … and I can appreciate his jokes because I’m married to a man with strong Norwegian ties in the Midwest.

Do you know what Mr. Keillor said of Christmas? He said, “A lovely thing about Christmas is that it’s compulsory, like a thunderstorm, and we all go through it together.”

For many of us, the overwhelming pull of the holidays is buy, buy, buy. Men may get performance anxiety. But we moms? We get purchase anxiety. Did I get the thing, the absolutely perfect gift that says “you” in a not-too-over-the-top, but not-too-under-the-top way? It’s exhausting and infuriating.

When it comes to buying Christmas gifts for the family, I’ve never been an overachiever. I gravitate toward the simple and practical.

We’ve all heard the homily, “It’s the thought that counts,” and it never runs truer than when someone gives you, say, a seashell-encrusted candelabra, and you wonder: what were they thinking?

Re-gifting? There are emotional obstacles to re-gifting. It feels wrong and disrespectful and I feel guilty … but come on, the gift is so ugly and inappropriate that they should feel guilty. Or it makes me rethink my whole relationship with them.

Why not save it for a white elephant party (and hope the gift-giver is not present). This is a chance to rewrap something awful that you’ve received and are prepared to exchange for something that could, conceivably, be even worse.

If manners and morals prevent you from re-gifting or rewrapping it up for a white elephant gift exchange, there’s the obvious solution — the thrift store.

But, if you decide to simply rewrap the present and give it to someone else — talk about a gift that keeps giving — just be sure that it makes more sense for them than it did for you. If it looks like you’re passing off something inappropriate to another person, of course that would be wrong. But, if you happen to have a nice something that you don’t like or want, then, for goodness’ sake, recycle. Duplicates of children’s toys, books and clothing will find a good home through Operation Helping Hand or any of the other charitable projects during this time of the year here in Pagosa. This way you avoid the nightmare of inadvertently giving a gift back to someone who gave it to you in the first place. (Though, knowing them, they’d probably like it.)

The holidays are a time to create memories that have nothing to do with things bought, but only with things taught and shared. Cooking is always a great source for memories. For me, patriotism and tradition is the taste of the dishes that my grown children had as young children.

So in your kitchen, preheat a memory, fold in old friends with new and bake a good laugh (but be prepared for some major cleaning up after — comeuppance for my fastidiousness).

The traditions we perpetuate, the parties we attend and the foods we prepare give us a touchstone to another year gone. But it is in the faces and smiles and sounds of our family members that remind us that life is short and our time with our loved ones is brief. That knowledge is what has kept me clinging to the holidays as a time of connection to my family, friends and loved ones — near and far.

Not for the stuff. Not for the stuffing. Nothing but the closeness of human beings, together. My people. My tribe. My loves.