Thank you for asking what I want for Christmas this year. Sorry it has taken me so long to respond.
Circumstances this year have made it difficult for me to focus on your question. What with the national and international crises, plus our family's upheaval and pending move to Fairbanks, putting together a wish list has been difficult.
After pondering the issue for some time, I've come to a difficult decision.
This year, I don't want any "stuff."
While I appreciate your good intentions in bringing bags of goodies, and I treasure the tradition of waking on Dec. 25 to find a heap of gaily wrapped surprises under the holiday tree, I've reached a point in my life where it really has gotten to be too much.
Our house is bursting with "stuff," and I'm going to have the monumental task of sorting, packing and moving it in the months to come. An awful lot of it just has got to go: the unused, the outgrown, the broken, the duplicated and the whatever-were-we-thinking thingees. Some of these are gifts of Christmases past from loving family and friends who felt obliged to trade their hard-earned money for something they could put in a box with our names on it.
At this stage, I'm getting my best enjoyment from things other than "stuff."
This became clearer to me last month. I spent two whole, precious, fleeting weeks at my parents' home in California. My brothers and my older daughter, now away at her first year of college, were there to share a Thanksgiving feast with us. It had been many years since we had all been together.
We didn't go anywhere except for walks beneath the pine trees, to see "Harry Potter" at the theater and to the airport to pick up and drop off travelers. We didn't do anything except eat, catch up with family news, look at genealogy records and hang out with each other. We had no agenda except enjoying each other's company.
I got more enjoyment out of being with my family than I would have if they had bought me the Ritz. And I don't have to repackage the memories to ship to Fairbanks.
My parents understood this. Before I left, my mom gave me a check to apply toward air fares for more family togetherness. And she promised not to send a lot of "stuff" this year.
I've been thinking about gift alternatives. There are ways to stimulate the economy, as we have been urged, without filling closets and landfills with holiday debris.
My favorite this year is the gift of togetherness: plane tickets to see a dear, distant friend, phone cards to keep in touch at a discount and little fun outings such as a dinner on the town or sharing a show.
I already know what my favorite present is going to be Tuesday: having my husband and both my daughters altogether under my roof for the first time after months apart.
That brings me back to your original request to know what items from your workshop might catch my fancy this year.
When I think of what I might want from someone outside my family, I find myself yearning, again, for things that won't fit in a box. What I would like most is totally out of the question: to roll time back and undo heart-rending wrongs, including those of Sept. 11.
I find myself praying for wisdom, strength and good fortune for leaders such as George W. Bush and Hamid Karzai and for the troops supporting them. For comfort and consolation for the shattered families in New York, Washington, D.C., Afghanistan and Israel. For peace and reconciliation in Kashmir, Colom-bia, Zimbabwe, Bosnia and dozens of other places throughout the world wracked by conflict. For the ideals and strength of the United States of America.
No offense, Santa, but I think these are beyond your scope. So I am addressing that Christmas wish list not to you, but to someone who was once a baby from the troubled West Bank village of Bethlehem.
And as for your offer, if you have any "stuff" earmarked for me, please forward it to some Afghan refugee orphans.
Shana Loshbaugh is a reporter for the Peninsula Clarion.
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