I ran some necessary errands (library!) this morning, so I am now ready to have peace and quiet until Christmas Eve services tomorrow night. That was one unexpected benefit of switching around my holiday travel schedule. Usually, things get really quiet in the last couple of days before Christmas. There are no more parties and most people are either busy or out of town, so that gives me a couple of quiet, unscheduled days that I can use to prepare for the holiday. I always felt so rushed when I went to my parents' house before Christmas Eve because I was usually going straight from a stretch of parties and activities with no time to settle down. Now there's some laundry, packing and gift wrapping to be done, but then I also have time to read, write, and do some contemplation to get refocused and remember that this is actually a religious holiday. I'm hoping to do most of the physical preparation today so tomorrow can be focused more on the spiritual side, leading up to the two church services.
I made pretty good progress on the script on Friday but now have to do some backtracking and tinkering. I hope to get a bit more done today before I settle in for the pre-Christmas Eve viewing of The Holiday and maybe something else.
Now, for a Christmas post. I think today I'll discuss gifts. It's hard to pick one favorite gift ever because that seems to change over the years, but I do have one that's almost like something out of one of those cheesy holiday movies, where the adult finally gets something he/she wanted but didn't get as a child. Only usually that person is a Scrooge sort whose heart grows three sizes when he gets that present, and not getting that present was what turned him into a Scrooge. In my case, it was just a delayed acknowledgement of a childhood dream. I've always been fascinated by pianos. I had a little toy one, and I taught myself to read music and to play some songs. My friends and a cousin took piano lessons, and I desperately wanted that. When I was at their houses, I'd get out their piano books and work through some of their lessons. I begged for a piano and lessons, but that was before you could get electronic pianos, and we moved every few years, which isn't something that goes well with owning a piano. I did get to learn an instrument when it came time for junior high band, but a flute is not a piano (though it is more portable). Then when I was in my twenties, my parents gave me an electronic keyboard with piano-sized keys. I finally had my piano. Not that I've really learned to play it. Learning the flute first actually made that more difficult because I only learned to read the treble clef and play one note at a time, and it's a huge mental and physical adjustment to play with both hands. My brain is looking at the music and saying it's easy while my hands are tangling in knots. I can, however, find all the notes, and I can work out my choir music. It would help if I practiced more and put some work into it, but now I'm at the point where I have only myself to blame and can't really blame my parents (though this wouldn't be an issue if I'd had piano lessons starting when I was about six, when I started begging).
I had one other gift that was also like something from a cheesy Christmas movie. That came when I was in first grade. There was a girl in my class who was a bit odd. I'm not sure exactly what was odd about her (looking back as an adult who might be able to figure it out), but she was from a very poor family, and I'm not sure she spoke English very well. She was the kid the other kids shunned, but since I tend to be oblivious to those sorts of things, I didn't realize I was supposed to be avoiding her. When I had leftover food on my lunch tray and she wanted it, I let her have it. I had no idea that she was hungry (some of this I learned later via my parents, who got it from the teacher). For Christmas, they did the kind of gift exchange where everyone brings a generic wrapped gift in a certain price range, they put numbers on each one, and then each person draws a number and gets that gift. This girl brought a gift but refused to put it in for the gift exchange. She wanted to give it to me, and there was a meltdown involved before she was finally allowed to do so. The gift was a tie clip for a 1970s necktie, so it was pretty wide, and it had a dangling pendant-type jewel hanging from it (in a color that happens to be my birthstone). It was probably scavenged from her dad, but I thought it was beautiful and wore it as a pin (and I still think it's lovely -- I should dig it out and find a way to wear it). Being oblivious, I had no idea at the time why she wanted me to have it and wasn't willing to put it in the gift exchange, but my parents later explained that it was because I'd been nice to her and shared my food with her. I didn't even do that to be nice. It had just seemed logical, so I felt a little guilty that she took it as kindness. The lesson learned was that you have no idea what your actions will mean to someone else, and something you don't even think about may make a big difference for them.
As for the worst gift, that, hands-down, has to go to a guy I dated very briefly. A friend had set us up, mostly because I liked to dance and he was a ballroom dancer (though he was hard to dance with because he was used to doing choreographed stuff). We went out to a movie right before Thanksgiving and went dancing once after Thanksgiving, and then we met up for a movie and he wanted to come to my place afterward to give me my present. That sent up the warning signs and I said my house wasn't fit for company because I'd been baking. So we arranged to have dinner that week. I went frantically shopping for a gift because I hadn't thought we'd been dating long enough for that. I had no idea what to get him because I didn't know him that well. His gift for me turned out to be this hideous Frederick's of Hollywood thing. I don't even know how to describe it other than that it involved velvet and lace and there was no practical purpose for this garment. It wasn't something you would wear to sleep in, and it couldn't really be worn under clothes. I suppose it was to be worn to pose in and then remove, but it wasn't the sort of thing you could even remove easily. It was like an extra-long sports bra with a lot of lace. I don't think I reacted the way he expected because he then claimed it was a joke, that he'd just wanted to see my reaction when I opened it. It was a gift that had nothing to do with me or who I was, and it was more a gift for him than for me, even if it was true that it was just for a joke, because it was a joke for his amusement at my expense. Needless to say, the relationship didn't last long, though that wasn't really the final straw (I was young and foolish and accepted his apology). The final straw came a few weeks later when he accused me of avoiding him because I didn't want to go out on a date when I had a sinus infection and was on my second round of antibiotics and taking decongestants that kept me from sleeping, so I was exhausted, in pain and feeling lousy (but no, it was all about him). He's on my list of reasons I'm still single. That's the kind of guy who makes a convent start to look good.