December 29, 2014
Each of us took our turn ripping paper off presents. Scraps of colored happiness floated around the room while “oohs” and “aahs” rang out at each unveiling. Smiles lit up faces, some with excitement, others with relief. Joy permeated the room, and for the moment, appreciation and love abounded. We were blessed this Christmas. Fourteen hour work days, relentless schedules, and extended business trips had finally paid off. With each tear and ensuing squeal of delight, a bit of exhaustion rolled off our shoulders and contentment took its place. This year stood apart from the rest and I needed to soak up each moment because I understood how tenuous good fortune can be.
Christmases past rolled through my thoughts and the contrast between those years and this one begged examination. Were this year’s smiles bigger than last? I sifted through my memories trying to picture last year’s faces, recall emotions, and in my mind’s eye, I didn’t see anything different than what sat before me. Did they feel just as happy last year? Just as loved?
My husband nudged me back to the moment. It was my turn to open my last gift. A gorgeous sapphire and diamond ring glistened up at me. Caught between emotions of yesteryear and now, I smiled at his thoughtfulness while swallowing tears of some unnamed emotion. Most years, he and I couldn’t afford to exchange gifts. By the time we’d finished purchasing gifts for the kids, we had nothing left for ourselves. Yet every year he surprised me with something: a soft pair of socks, my favorite lotion, or a fragrant candle. I knew he’d forgone something so I could have a gift and his love would whisper through me, wrapping me in its warmth.
I slipped on the ring, torn between the idea of simpler times and appreciation for where we were this year. While opening my present, I experienced the same feeling of love as I did in prior years, yet the item inspiring the emotion had much more monetary value than socks and candles. I wondered if I would have been just as happy with those socks or candles this year knowing what our coffers held.
This thought has continued to plague me for days and it’s impossible to answer it without bias because I have the ring. I keep replaying Christmas morning. I opened the ring last. I had no expectations of an extravagant gift, and I don’t remember feeling let down or as if the gifts I’d received thus far had lacked value. Yet, this little voice in my head kept prompting me to dig deeper.
I’ve never been one to value things. People and relationships have always been far more important, but I’ve also never been in this position before. If we had always been in a place of comfort, would I have held objects in more esteem? There’s no way to know, but I need to examine if I feel that way now.
Without a doubt, if all we could afford were socks, I would have experienced the same rush of emotion. Yet, I can’t say with certainty I would have been just as happy with socks this year knowing we have more. The shallowness of that thought upsets me. If I’m being completely honest, I’m not sure I would have thought it if a good friend hadn’t said, “Wow, that’s out of my league.” That’s a delineating comment, one that separates. I understood what he meant, but that felt like a kick in the gut. Money is not love. A woman with a huge diamond doesn’t mean she has a husband who loves her more than a woman with a small diamond. There is no league when it comes to expressing love, yet there exists this idea that having more means gifts should have greater value for them to mean as much. Doesn’t that make more, less?
I want to go back to Christmas morning, before I opened the ring. I want to go back so I can be certain of my integrity. It’s easy to say the value of the gift didn’t impact how I felt, but I don’t know if that’s the truth. I sit here wearing fuzzy socks, burning my fragrant candle, and watching my ring sparkle. I’m not sure whether or not I value one over the other, but I can’t continue to worry about an answer I’ll never have. Besides, whether it’s the socks, the candle, the diamond, or a culmination of three, I feel loved and that’s what matters.
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