Keeping Up with the Presents

It’s now full on the holiday shopping season. God finds it kind of interesting that we humans invent new seasons, or overlay things on existing ones. He thought that “winter” was good enough for this time of year, but not us, we have to make it “Christmas Season” or “Holiday Season” or “Shopping Season.” Still he finds it amusing as long as we avoid rioting in the aisles of our local mega-store.

One of the things that I’ve always found somewhat trying, this time of year, is trying to balance things out. In some ways it was easier when I was poor. I figured out how much I could afford to spend, I made a list of the people to whom I wanted to give presents, and then I divided the money evenly to get a target price. Then I’d hunt up things in that range. But when I started to earn a bit more money, it was no longer that simple. Now I have to consider things like what’s the budget of the target of my largess? Will they feel badly if I spend more on them than they spend on me? Will they feel slighted if I spend less on them than on some mutual friend?

Luckily I’ve managed to sort this out in a fairly egalitarian way, or really, in three ways. With most of my friends, we just don’t exchange gifts. They’re the sorts of friends I’d probably send greeting cards to if I were more organized in that sort of way. There’s another group that have banded together in a formal pact, we draw names and use the one name we draw as a surrogate for the group as a whole. And we have a set target value, so it’s all very clean and safe. Then the third group is the kids. There’s various kids that I know, that I see enough of through the year, that I want to get them something. But they don’t much compare notes, they don’t much focus on how much the presents cost, and they know very well that they don’t need to get me something and that if they do, they have no way to compete on budget. So we get to be lopsided and everybody’s happy.

Of course, God doesn’t like to make our lives too simple, so he tosses in some ringers. He makes sure there are people that come in and out of my life so that I’m never sure if I should get them something or not. Some of them feel the same way about me. So we play the balls where they lie. And it’s always best if those balls are well infused with rum. Which is another thing I love about the season.

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