The postal service says that this year, children are asking Santa for basics like “coats, socks and shoes — rather than toys and games” this Christmas. Maybe so. The presents have changed with time but the gift has always been the same.
If you could create a display of things people have given each other over the centuries they would include birds carved from wood, home-made cakes, letters or garlands of flowers. In and among them would be coats, carefully brushed and mended to seem new or things handed down, pieces of crockery, furniture. They would make vast and fascinating procession stretching back over the years. My grandmother always gave me a present for Christmas until the year she died. She was living with my parents by then, and without a source of income. I remember her saving coins for some purpose no one could guess until on Christmas day we found out what it was for. She gave me a chocolate bar.
It was days before I could bring myself to eat it. When I finally did, I stared for a long time afterward at the foil and paper, wondering as many of us probably have at such gifts, on how so little a thing could carry so great a weight of human love. Whether it is an Xbox or a package of cookies, from the hands that wrap the packages or make the food comes the miracle, which springs the heart of man. Humanity is not as some would argue, a blight upon the universe. On the contrary, they are the only creatures we know of in the vast cavalcade of galaxies and stars who can transform coats, socks, velveteen rabbits and candy bars into things of magic.
If I live to be a hundred
I will never know from where
Came those lovely scarlet ribbons
Scarlet ribbons for her hair