You know what I like about Christmas? I like presents. I like the thinking, and the planning, and the getting excited as you hope that your recipient is going to like this gift as much as you do. I like the conspiracies you enter into with other people to surprise someone else with something wonderful. I like the working really hard to make or find something really good just for that other person. And then I love actually giving the gift, wrapping it up all pretty, writing their name on it, waiting with such anticipation for them to finally, finally get to opening your present, and then watching their face to find out whether or not your planning and scheming and hard work paid off. It’s really rather a thrill.
However, as much as I love giving presents, I have to admit that I love receiving presents just a little bit more. I love the surprise of it, the not knowing what might be in this beautifully (or clumsily) wrapped package. Gifts say something about a relationship, about whether the other person actually knows you well enough to choose something that will please or delight you. Sometimes it’s getting that item on your wish list you really wanted to have, or getting something you’d never thought of, but is nonetheless exactly the right thing. Whether it’s just the right thing or not, it’s something that the giver thought you should have. And it’s fun.
Last night I got my first taste of holiday gift giving for the year. We had our Extended Family Presents over at Mariah and The Duchess’s house. The aunts, uncles, and older cousins pull names out of a hat for a gift exchange, so it’s not the marathon of presents of previous years, but enough aunts and uncles give to everybody that everyone goes home pleasantly laden with goods. My present for the exchange was given to Sae – a scarf and matching set of fingerless gloves knit out of the loveliest, lushest hand-dyed merino wool I’ve ever seen (seriously – it felt like velvet when all knitted up). I knit them up over a month ago, and have been gleefully anticipating Sae’s pleasure ever since. I was not disappointed. Sae was thrilled – as soon as she saw what was inside her squishy, tissue-wrapped package she exclaimed with joy, eagerly pulled the things out, and put them on immediately. And although the room was warm and thoroughly full of all of us opening presents, she kept both the scarf and fingerless gloves on for at least an hour. It was thoroughly gratifying.
I loved the presents I received too. Aunt B had drawn my name in the exchange, and had gotten me a copy of Anansi Boys (which I had asked for), and another book which I hadn’t asked for, but which looks interesting. She also went through her yarn stash, and filled a large box full of lovely yarns for me to use. It was great.
However, the best gift I got came from Aunt C, and it wasn’t even really a gift to me. After most of the presents were opened, she pulled out a large, cardboard mailing envelope, handed Sae a piece of paper, and asked her to read it out loud. It was a declaration from the International Star Registry that henceforth the star RA5h46m47.42s D8°31’16.25″ in the constellation Orion will forever be known as Jacob Anthony Yeshuah Family Name. We had drawn names for this year’s gift exchange before the tragedy in January, and she had his name. All year she had been trying to think what she should do since she could no longer give Jacob a regular present, and she hit on this as her gift to him, and to us. In the cardboard envelope she had many copies of the star chart she had received showing us exactly where the Jacob star is, enough for all of us to have one.
I can’t quite say why this touches me so deeply. All I know is that as Sae read out the proclamation I was tearing up, and I have tears in my eyes now as I write about it. It seems very right that Jacob should have a star, and that we should be able to look up and see his star looking back down on us. It seems even more right that his star should be in the constellation Orion, probably the only constellation I can reliably identify. I’ve always loved that constellation, loved the story of the Greek myth, loved seeing it high above my head when I went outside on clear, cold winter nights. And now I can look up again and see, not only Orion’s belt, but there, halfway between Orion’s shoulders, just to the right of Betelgeuse, the Jacob star.