When we were much younger, girls might have thought perfection resided in the right bottle of shampoo that promised just the right shine or swing of their long supple hair. Or the right make of hair product, in the case of a guy intent on the most stand-up crew cut. The just right shade of bubblegum pink lipstick might have cemented the impression we sought as the perfect teenage girl with just the look to win an appreciative glance from the football player two years ahead of us in school. Or in the case of a guy, the teasing look of the bounciest cheerleader. And oh, the possibilities were that to happen. Back in those days, the hope of achieving perfection seemed worth all the time spent perusing the aisles of the drug store. It took us a long time to realize that perfection didn't, wouldn't and couldn't come in a bottle.
More so than any other time of the year, this (commercial) season seems to taunt us with come on's that suggest that perfection can be captured in the selection and giving of just the right gift. "The reason for the season" becomes corrupted in the search for the perfect gift, as if one really exists. We search for what we hope will be the perfect gift, the perfect way to express love, gratitude and warm emotions, but can a "thing" really accomplish that? We want to give a gift that embodies all that we want to say but find ourselves unable to say even with a dictionary at hand. We think the perfect gift will cement a relationship that we want to cement. But relationships are funny things. They ebb and flow like the tides, and few of them last forever.
There can be a fury and a furor to Christmas shopping because there's a deadline set and immovable. The pressure builds as the days tick off. Getting the gifts is but one part of the process. Then there's the wrapping or finding the right size gift bag. Then there's the mailing, Fedex-ing or personal delivery of the goods in hand. Come Christmas Eve, many of us wind up exhausted and wondering where the season of peace and love went. The time flies by with no time for reflecting on all there is to cherish about these days.
This used to be my favorite time of year. I would start playing Christmas tunes come Thanksgiving. Save me from "Alvin and the Chipmunks," but I just love the rest of the music. Somewhere along the way, however, the Christmas season collected a lot of baggage. Maybe it started when I ended up in a house with an attic where all the Christmas decorations are stored. What fun is it to trudge up two flights of stairs into a cold vault to bring them all down and then in just three weeks or so, heft them back into their lair? In some very cold winters, Christmas decorations have remained in a spare bedroom, not put away until May or so when it was finally warm enough to open the attic door.
Maybe the season became less lustrous for me when I realized that all there is to love about Christmas has to be overlaid on everyday life, work and obligations. Nothing stops just because it's Christmas, no matter how much I wish it would. It is difficult for me at times to add the shopping, wrapping, shipping, decorating, baking, decorating and merrymaking to days that seem quite busy enough with must-do's.
Or maybe the passion I once felt for this season waned when I finally realized that it really couldn't live up to its commercialized billing. There is no perfect gift that can be bought in a store. They can be imperfect in adequately expressing the real emotion we might feel and want to convey, poor substitutes, in fact, for our truest thoughts. Gifts don't make relationships last forever. Gifts break, get lost, stop working or become worn out. Perfect moments don't last forever. They are ephemeral and easily replaced by moments far less perfect.
OK, I'm sounding a lot like Mrs. Grinch to Dr. Seuss's easy-to-loathe Mr. Grinch played by Jim Carrey in the delightful movie "How the Grinch Stole Christmas." However, Whoville is a place I could live because come the Christmas season, everything stops except for the merrymaking, the joy sharing, the belly laughs and the passing of Christmas cheer. And at the end of the movie, the whole town and its denizens learn the most important lesson of the Christmas season: it's all about love and forgiveness even in the face of imperfection.
Barbara Morgan is a Covington resident with a background in newspaper journalism, state government and politics. She chairs the Newton Advisory Committee.