Here we are starting December — the holiday season ahead — and it’s a difficult time of year for a few reasons. And no, I’m not just talking about whether Joe Biden actually makes it into the White House to become the 46th president of the United States. It’s only mid-November as I write this, so who knows what can happen between now and the January 20 inauguration day. Trump could declare the United States a republic, appointing himself the supreme dictator for life. Nothing would surprise me. I can only hope the transition to President Biden goes smoothly.
Mostly, I am referring to issues closer to my home. First, I have an old friend I’m afraid is not going to make it much longer, and, second, is there someway to spin this COVID-19 thing to minimize Christmas spending and not look like a cheapskate?
Without being too melodramatic, the old friend I refer to is my long-beloved recliner chair. It is making clunk sounds I haven’t heard before. I fear the day is near when I will have to make that difficult one last trip with the chair out behind the barn. And since I don’t have a barn, I guess it will be a one-way trip to the city landfill, that will cost me a $25 disposal fee. Dropping it off at a local Goodwill depot is a free option, however, I am afraid if the chair is bad enough for me to get rid of it, no one else will want it either.
It’s been a good chair, a great chair really. I think it is a La-Z-Boy we bought at the Sear’s clearance centre many years ago — how many, I can’t remember. I know it was with me during the 9/11 crisis, which was 20 years ago, so it might even be 25 years old.
If I watched two or three hours of TV per day over 25 years, that equals about 1,140 days, or me sitting in that chair the equivalent of three years straight. It knows my butt well.
It had this odd clunking sound even when we first bought it — that’s likely why it was at the clearance centre to begin with. But other than the clunk when it disengaged from reclining position to normal-sitting position, it worked great. It was very comfortable. But now there is extra clunking going on. I get the chair reclined into my usual TV-watching positioning and a couple minutes later there’s a clunk and a jolt and the angle of the footrest drops down about an inch or two. Still reclined, but an inch or so lower. That’s not a good sign.
I thought about finding a recliner repair shop (if they even exist) and then I remembered an old IKEA furniture TV commercial featuring a sad-looking table lamp, sitting by a garbage can on a rainy night, sad music is playing. And for a couple seconds you’re feeling badly for the lamp, until the IKEA announcer says something like, “Get over it, it is just a lamp, go buy a new one.” That’s the hard line I will have to apply to my chair.
Or if anyone is a collector of odd and usual historical items, and you’re the least bit interested in the recliner that Lee Hart sat in for three years, let me know. I might even deliver.
And I really can no longer complain about the cost of Christmas. We nipped that spending monster in the bud a few years ago. With two adult children with their partners and now a two-year-old grandson literally running around, we are a max of seven in our immediate family. It is not a large cohort to begin with.
But then a few years ago, somebody had the courage to say, why don’t we just draw names and buy one gift for one person, with a dollar limit of $40 — that was an award-winning idea. About then, we were also in the process of weaning the extended family off the gift-giving list too. With siblings, nieces and nephews, aunts and uncles and cousins, and figuring out where to draw the line, it was totally unmanageable anyway. So that all stopped, as well.
So, really, I have to buy one gift for one person for a max of $40 and usually we also pick a letter of the alphabet, so the gift somehow has to connect to the letter theme. I don’t have it bad at all. I hear the horror stories of some people who start Christmas shopping in August because they feel compelled to buy a gift for everyone they have ever known, and I think, wow, that has to be stressful and expensive.
Come to think of it, if I just wrangle my way into being the letter picker for this year’s gift giving it might miraculously end up being the letter “R.” And if that be the case, one lucky person might end up the recipient of a lovingly used recliner that just doesn’t recline anymore. If this gets marketed properly, it could actually be a family heirloom that gets passed from one generation to the next — a much-coveted gift.
But paring the gift giving down to a minimum isn’t about being cheap. My late father-in-law often made a good point. He was an old man who grew up in a small village in southern Italy in the 1920s, where life and gift giving were simple. And after 40 years of working for CN Rail, in retirement, he reflected on how times had changed, often commenting, “Today, every day is Christmas.” The point being made that most households and most of us don’t lack for very much at anytime of the year.
It is this message that perhaps most apply applies as we weather the storm of this pandemic year — if we have our health and our family this holiday season, then beyond that we really don’t need much more.