The un-gift

Dec 8, 1999 at 12:00 am

Some people drop hints about what they want for Christmas beginning sometime around Memorial Day. They leave catalogs open, place little notes in strategic spots, and talk excessively about how their lives would be better if only they had a ... whatever, the item isn't important.

Which is exactly what makes my brother the hardest, and easiest, person to shop for. As far as he's concerned, the item isn't important. Actually, it's so unimportant that when you ask him, point-blank, what he wants for Christmas, the answer is always the same. "Nothing."

And he means it, too. This isn't one of those sly hints of, "Well, nothing, but if you happened to stop by a ... whatever ... store on your way home, I wouldn't mind a ... whatever." No, this is a sincere "nothing." He's completely serious. Nothing. Because that's what he plans to give you.

Don't expect any sort of gift, not even a last-minute surprise, hidden until all the other gifts are unwrapped. Don't even expect a guilt-induced, post-holiday sale item to turn up. Not from him. Not even if you've just given him that new sketchbook or pair of socks he definitely appreciates but didn't ask for, and wouldn't have minded not receiving, either.

Not to say he's stingy. He's just not interested in the whole consumer products aspect of the season. "I'm against it," he tells me. "You can quote me on that."

He's big into the nothingness of Christmas. Why waste time shopping, spend money you don't necessarily have, and present it on one particular day of the year? If it's the symbolic gesture, the thought that counts, why not just go straight for the thought?

And so he may not shop for you, but he'll think of you. He'll even tell you "Merry Christmas," implying that he's happy to spend it with you, that you matter to him. Which, really, come to think of it, is the best gift of all.