As Christmas quickly approaches, we are never more reminded that we need things–things like the latest iPhone, flat screen TV, or, yes, that unavoidable stringy Santa one-piece in Victoria’s Not-So-Secret front window. Usually, thanks to the unchanging temperature of the temperate places I live (it’s not that great, so stop), I don’t even realize Christmas is right around the corner until I’ve been so bombarded by advertisements pitching me more and more things that I am reduced to a serious state of Scrooge-ness.

 

Dare I say it?

I really don’t like Christmas anymore– and it’s because we’re expected to bombard one another with things. I’d pull a Grinch and take away everyone’s things just to prove to everyone that things don’t make the holidays.

SHEVA: Things– Grinch 2

But let’s drop the cynicism for a moment and consider why we like having things– things beyond practical necessities like toothbrushes and toilet paper. We’re only human, after all. Things like a pair of rings when two people get married, or a candle atop a birthday cake, or even a tattoo– little things with purpose that unequivocally impact our lives for the better. Well, here’s an idea:

My best friend, Tarrah Aroonsakool, with my poor, dead van

My best friend, Tarrah Aroonsakool, with my poor, dead van

Two weeks ago, my car broke down in the middle of nowhere. I was moving “home” from New Orleans to San Diego for an assignment, and I stuffed all my worldly possessions – all my things –  into my red Volkswagen Eurovan, the one I drove all throughout high school and the one I drove 14,000 miles all over the United States this past summer. It tragically smoked to a halt and died 100 miles east of Tuscon in an area of Arizona so remote that no one could find us (my God-send of a best friend had come along for the trip ensuring I wasn’t alone). It was the day before Thanksgiving and with no signal, no food or water and no other options, we decided to hitchhike to San Diego, which meant we had to abandon my van and all of my things– my beautiful beautiful things! I had only three small bags, and it was getting dark, so with only twenty minutes to spare, I had to evaluate what I couldn’t live without and leave the rest. What proceeded was the trickiest half hour of my life.

In my purse, I stuffed all my legal and technical necessities– my passport, my registration (much good that would do me), my phone and its charger and my computer and its charger.

In my suitcase, I stuffed physical necessities– my toothbrush, two shirts, a pair of jeans and my coat. (I forgot underwear, but we won’t mention that.)

And in my duffle-bag, I unabashedly stuffed things– my plays, my travel journals, my students’ work, my friends’ doodles on ripped pieces of notebook paper and a few of my favorite books of all time. In a world where everything was going to be taken from me, this impractical bag of things turned out to be the most precious of all– and why? Well, because they reminded me of moments in my life of pure happiness and love.

Love. Here we go again. Two rings– tangible symbols of a couple’s love. A birthday candle on a birthday cake– a classic gesture showing someone cared enough about to commemorate one’s birthday. My tattoo– a little (permanent) reminder of a time when I was 100% loving life.

In Memoriam: Marie Shelton and her poor, dead van

In Memoriam: Marie Shelton and her poor, dead van

Things don’t make Christmas. Love makes Christmas. That’s the lesson of the Grinch, after all. Christmas came anyway– without things, just  a whole lot of Who love. If things help express the love we have for one another at Christmastime– well, then, I guess some things are okay. I’d argue that the less things one has, the more they mean– but to each her own!

This Christmas, I challenge you to think about your things and the things you give others. Want to give the best gift this Christmas? Make every thing you buy or give filled with love and purpose. Want to show you care about me this Christmas? Don’t order me the latest iPhone, give me a phone call. Don’t get a flatscreen on some mega-sale, let’s go to the movies together and I’ll keep the ticket stubs in memory of our lovely time together. Don’t go out and buy me sexy Santa lingerie, write me a letter that makes my heart melt and my toes curl. (Wink).

Merry Christmas, everyone. I have everything I need.