A Simple Season

Chapel Hill News logoMarch 25, 2006

They arrive almost daily. Today I got four in the mail – addressed to me, my husband, and our two daughters.Sometimes they come for my mother-in-law, who has been deadfor over a year.

What are they?

Credit card offerings.

On the front of one of the envelopes I read this message: “Earn CASH BACK on your holiday purchases.

The other envelope said: “Get Ready For Your Holiday Shopping.”

Just yesterday I made a decision about this year’s holiday shopping: there isn’t going to be any.

“Mom, you say that every year and then you cave,” my younger daughter said.

“This year is different,” I told her. And I meant it.

Since last Christmas I have cleared fifty-plus years of clutter out of our attic. The girls have emptied their rooms of childhood stuff and we’ve streamlined the rest of the house. There is no way I’m going to invite anything new to take up residence in my home. We have enough of everything and we all know it.

I suggested to my family that this year we give each other simple experiences–play a family doubles match, walk the dog in Duke Gardens, go to a museum, do for others. We might even splurge and take in a concert.

One year, supposedly instead of Christmas presents, we went to a fantastic Shania Twain show, complete with seven electric fiddles. But last minute I “caved” and made a breathless, tight-jawed trip to the mall, frantically picking out clothes, earrings, CDs–whatever–so that on Christmas morning there would be presents under the tree.

But no more. At 18 and 21, the kids are old enough for a fresh slant on the season. And I am inspired by how my friend Susie celebrated my recent birthday with me. On a nippy autumn Sunday we attended a late-morning yoga class (her treat). Afterwards, she bought us both a bottled water; we didn’t want anything else. The class had sated our appetites, relaxed us. Then she took me to play disc golf, a game she had talked about forever but I had never played–I couldn’t even imagine what it was. I had visions of arriving at some miniature golf-like course where we’d have to buy tickets, wait in lines, and be tempted by popcorn and cotton candy.

I was all wrong. The course is out in the woods in a Durham community park, free to all. We saw very few people. Basically we wandered around in the forest, throwing these small frisbees down woodsy paths, and eventually into wire baskets that meshed seamlessly with the landscape; I couldn’t even see them until we were upon them. It was as if we were in some kind of time warp, playing a Medieval game. I almost expected to find Robin hood around the next bend.

For me, disc golf was about being out in the fresh air with a good friend, about playing an odd new game, about not stumbling on roots while enjoying the rustle of the forest, about having a meandering and leisurely purpose in the woods. That’s all. And it was enough.

In a thank you to Susie I told her how happy I was with my birthday gifts. One year she had taken me out with a coupon book and we devoured two-for-one food and drinks we didn’t particularly like, at mediocre restaurants. This birthday, we had used no coupons, acquired no clutter, comsumed zero calories. We did good things for our bodies and our spirits.

I want the same for Christmas. Sorry Santa, Southpoint, and all those shop-till-you-drop credit cards.

Not this year.