Bah Humbug?
(Marshall’s “Beyond Words” column from December 2011 issue of Nashville Arts Magazine)

Lately, I’ve been feeling a little Bah Humbug about Christmas. Seems like the older I get, the faster Christmas seems to roll around. You’ve no sooner taken down the tree, than it’s time to put up another one. I once suggested to my family that we celebrate Christmas every other year. My suggestion was met with silence.

Then last week something happened within my family that has me back in the Christmas spirit like never before. I received an email from my older sister Mary announcing that she and her husband were sending no presents this year. They were going to give a donation to a favorite charity and asked that the rest of us do the same.

Her email was met with joy and jubilation. Personally, I felt twenty pounds lighter. No more shopping at the mall. No more standing in long lines at the post office. No more writing thank-you notes for gifts you either didn’t want, didn’t need, or didn’t like that much to begin with.

We all agreed we had enough stuff.

Plus, there are no longer any children in my family. I have four nieces. The oldest is thirty-two; the youngest, nineteen. In the ensuing flurry of emails, it was agreed that college graduation would be the cut-off point for sending Christmas gifts to the nieces.

Back in 1980, as I approached thirty, I remember writing letters to two of my aunts (who at the time were still sending gifts) requesting they not send me any more Christmas gifts. “I’d much prefer a newsy card or letter,” I wrote. They honored my request. Hopefully with the same feeling of relief I experienced upon receiving my older sister’s recent email.

Now a funny thing has happened on my way to Christmas Gift Emancipation. With the weight of obligation, however real or imagined, lifted, I suddenly find myself imagining new ways of giving. Chris and I just sent a check to my younger sister’s former housekeeper to help get her gas turned back on. In return, my younger sister sent us a check made out to a woman friend recently released from prison after twenty-six years.

Whatever this is, I like it.