Presents

I’m opening with a picture of the Queen. The Queen Mum as they say across the pond. I have no good reason for sharing this image with you. I googled “Christmas” and “Covid” and her majesty’s masked face showed up. I guess Great Britain continues to colonize our imaginations, albeit virtually. Say what you want, those rascally Brits sure know how to project power. They’re certainly to be credited as one reason we celebrate Christmas in these United States. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania not excluded.

And celebrate we did. Well, I did. With my wife and two boys. Because Covid. But we didn’t limit our festivities to Christmas. You see, as much as I’m a product of British imperialism, I’m also the descendent of Jews who fled the very-un-Christian embrace of Russian Cossacks. The Russians know something of projecting power too. See: Putin.

So our festivities in 2020 combined the twinkling lights of a Christmas tree with the flickering flame of a Menorah. I rest easier knowing that the story of the God of Abraham’s provision and self-sacrificial love lives behind these symbols that have, for the most part, been used to project power at the expense of the weak. See: The Queen Mum’s masked face. So those are the stories we told as my boys gathered around candles and strings of light. Gathered to do what? Why, open presents, of course. See: Adam Smith.

***

I left one celebration out above. I must have been too enchanted by the Queen Mum’s face. Solomon was born on the 17th of December in the year of our Lord 2013. So his birthday falls in the holiday season. And when Solomon gets a birthday present, we also have to provide something for his younger brother Samson. So Samson doesn’t explode with jealousy.

Also, did you know that Hanukkah in 2020 started on December 10th? Well, you do now my gentile friend.

What does all of this mean, dear reader? It means that the gift giving in the Tanner household started December 10th and carried straight through Christmas morning. UPS opened a direct shipping route to our front porch. I broke down box after box of toys or video games or books or whatever. We stacked presents in our storage closet. Our house became Santa’s Workshop. With a slight hint of Gefilte fish. And birthday cake.

I’m a careful man when it comes to finances. Do some of my socks have holes? Maybe. Am I still wearing underwear from 2004? Well, that’s an extremely rude thing for you to ask me. But, again, maybe. My educator’s salary is earmarked for student loans, our mortgage, and providing for young Solomon and Samson. Not much in the way of flexible income. Unless I make a mistake.

What kind of mistake, you ask? Well, how about this:

I redeemed a coupon my wife Katie received during our gift-giving extravaganza a few months ago. Bought six bottles from Naked Wines for like $20. As my Jewish father might say: What a deal! They brought the wine to my house. I still haven’t drank those bottles. I’m not a huge wine drinker. Anyway, I didn’t realize it, but redeeming that coupon enrolled me in Naked Wines membership program. So they’d be drawing money from my credit card over the last few months. I realized this a few weeks ago. I put the kibosh on my membership, but still had to use the money in my account. 13 bottles of wine showed up a couple days later. Katie was horrified.

“Where are you going to put all that wine?”

I shrugged. Broke down the boxes, and turned the top of our fridge into a wine cellar. Our house is a winery now.

So that’s what I mean by mistakes. I usually don’t make extravagant purchases. I’ve got a family to take care of, darn it. But then the holiday season hits. And 2020 has been brutal. So, darn it, we did our best to provide presents and joy to our boys as we celebrate Hanukkah, Solomon’s birthday, and Christmas.

I’ve written “darn it” quite a few times so far. Don’t tell the Queen Mum. I bet she’s a stickler for controlling language. See: British imperialism.

***

Are we terrible parents that spoil our children? Beat’s me. But I like giving presents to the boys. Especially in this season of pandemic and isolation and remote schooling and a masked Queen Mum. And it isn’t as if we spent a fortune. We don’t have a fortune to spend. But the boys got all sorts of Minecraft stuffed animals, connect-the-dot books, and video games. Paper Mario for the Switch looks fun. Here’s hoping for a stimulus check to ease the pain of holiday spending. Still, a little joy from consumerism? We can’t help it. We are denizens of these United States. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. A former colony of his or her majesty. May monarchy or authoritarianism or violent nationalism or unruly Cossacks not poison our shared futures. In this life or the next.

So we’ve been present in our household for the giving of presents. And here I’ll tell you that I’ve been wanting to write that sentence since I started this blog. I didn’t use it very skillfully, but I used it all the same. I wanted to say something about presence. Lord knows we’ve been forced to be present in my household this holiday season. For the past 10 months, too. I’m a little on edge, darn it. And I don’t care if the Queen Mum hears me say it. Unless she’s wielding a musket. Which I wouldn’t put past her. That rascally Brit.

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