December has always been an oddly problematic month for me. Not just because it’s my birth month with all the adoption baggage but also because of the holiday with its traditions, expectations, and gifting issues.
December birthdays, regardless of how close or far from Christmas Day they are, subjects those of us born in the Christian holy month to the weirdly known practice of “double duty presents”. There is this nonsensical notion that spending a few extra dollars on our birthday gifts will magically negate the necessity of giving much of anything (or even nothing at all) to us for Christmas itself.
Fortunately, my adoptive parents never bought into the notion of cheaping out on my birthday as a budgetary measure. My birthday was the same as my siblings birthdays, a day to be commemorated in a manner befitting the anniversary of one’s child arriving in the world. Even after I discovered the Santa Clause ruse, they never pulled the double duty gift stunt on me. When they decided to stop giving presents all together, they pulled that rug out from under all of their children and under the guise of “you are all adults now” and that’s a subject for another day.
However, aside from my parents and my dear godmother, nearly everyone else in my life pre-husbands and children happily bought into the practice of shafting the December born with combo gifts. To the point really where my birthday became something I stopped acknowledging when I was an adult and out in the world on my own.
There were a smattering of friends along the way. who upon discovering my apathy about my birthday and the reasons why, took it upon themselves to remedy this. It’s not lost on me that one of them herself was a December child and truly understood the pain.
I could chapter and verse the anecdotes but the point of my story is I became a gift giver rather than a receiver because giving was something I had control over.
Decades later, I still prefer giving gifts to receiving them. The most dreaded question in my world is “What do you want for your birthday?” Or Christmas. Or anniversary. I simply don’t know. Having gotten into the habit of fulfilling my own gift needs (a habit I would encourage everyone to explore really), I genuinely don’t need once a year instances to fill my material coffers.
The end result, which I am sure anyone could see coming, is people guessing and blessing me with things that make me wonder if anyone, aside from my husband, truly knows who I am at all. I can totally understand now why my adoptive dad would create a list every year and then assign each of us the present he wanted us to give him. One particularly memorable year, I was told to go to Target to get him very specific pair of jeans and my sister was instructed to buy him underwear.
“Underwear?” I asked her.
“Yep, and I am not asking questions or arguing,” she replied. “If he wants underwear in his stocking, so be it.”
My nephew picked up on this habit of his grandfather’s and as far as I know, still uses it. Oh, to be so enlightened at such a tender age.
My favourite thing, naturally, at Christmas was being the one who handed out the gifts. In this way, I avoided my own presents and could unwrap them while others were engrossed in theirs. Thus, if I was underwhelmed, or completely disappointed, in the items chosen for me, no one was any the wiser because they weren’t paying attention to me.
And it’s not that I don’t appreciate the thought and effort, though I question the thought a bit because again, does anyone even know me? I just would prefer people not give me anything just to be able to cross giving me something off their list. Take a tiny bit of time to understand why I am so indecisive about requesting presents and understand that at my core (however my core came to be) I am a gifter not a receiver. At this point in my life, I really am not going to change.