All I Want for Christmagiving...


Tomorrow night, my family is celebrating Christmas -- or, as we're calling it this year (fine: as I'm calling it this year), Christmagiving. Coming up with a date when the four of us siblings and our progenitors and my siblings' spouses can all sit down to dinner and festivities is usually impossible. (The fact that my younger brother lives in Hong Kong and typically has concerts over both Thanksgiving and Christmas doesn't help.)

But this year, we've done it! Jon and his wife, Aki, are coming in for Thanksgiving, and there is an entire 12-hour window between their arrival and my sister and brother-in-law's departure to Minnesota. So at 5pm tomorrow, we will gather together to celebrate Christmas, two days before Thanksgiving.

What this means, of course, is that I'm supposed to have finished all my Christmas shopping by tomorrow afternoon. (Get off my back, people. There are hours left. HOURS.) Just as importantly, this means that I'm supposed to have sent a list of what I want to the sibling responsible for buying me a gift. This year, my sister -- one of the world's best high school teachers -- picked me. On Friday, having not yet received a list, she sent me the following message:

So if you have any particular wishes for Christmas, or wish to have any say whatsoever in what you do/do not get for Christmas, let me know soon.

Here are your list-writing prompts:

Is there... Anything you want for your year of research?
Anything you want for your year of travel?
Anything you want for your year of writing?
Anything you want for your home?
Anything you want to wear?
Any particular shops you wish to patronize?
Any particular tools you need to accomplish your goals?

This list of writing prompts delighted me to no end. Many, many of my friends are teachers, especially at the middle school, high school, and college level, and I myself have logged over a decade of grading Intro essays. Inspired, I wrote my sister (whose students consistently remember that her last name has something to do with twine and/or office supplies but not which particular one) the following essay, which I hereby dedicate it to all the hard-working and unbelievably patient graders of student essays around the world.

Dear Ms. String,

Webster's Dictionary defines "gift" as "1) a notable capacity, talent, or endowment; 2) something voluntarily transferred by one person to another without compensation​." In this essay, I will say what I want as a gift for Christmas, and I will say why it is a good thing to want.

When I was 12, my grandmother died. This was a very important and formative event in my life. Because I realized that life can end and so I decided to have my life have meaning. This is why I want an electric kettle for Christmas. Until this very day, I have been heating my water in a kettle on the stove, and it takes a really long time sometimes, and sometimes I have other things I could be doing that I am not doing because I am waiting for my water to boil. Also, because I am very familiar with electric kettles from my international travels in the United Kingdom, where everyone uses electric kettles. An electric kettle would give my life more meaning.

Coffee is also good and I make it with water that I boil. In addition to an electric kettle, I would like some coffee beans. There is a store, and it is called Global Infusion, and it has many varieties of coffee beans. I care about justice and about the poor, and Global Infusion is a store that also cares about justice and the poor, and that is part of what makes my life have meaning. Madcap coffee has expensive beans, but they are roasted in Grand Rapids, and buying local also makes my life have meaning. There are no type of Madcap coffees that I do not like. I like the 616 blend maybe the best, though, and 3rd coast blend. And also dark roasts.

Sometimes when I drink coffee, I also like to wear a necklace that expresses how my life has meaning. The best necklaces that express meaning are kind of chunky and colorful. But not colorful like a clown. Colorful like a sunset that I have seen in my international travels to places such as the United Kingdom and China. When people see my necklace they can think of their own travels and then their lives will have more meaning, too.

In conclusion, I hope that you have learned that I would like an electric kettle, and coffee beans, and maybe a necklace for Christmas. And why they are a good thing to want. Webster's defines 'meaning' as "1) the idea that is represented by a word, phrase, etc., 2) the idea that a person wants to express by using words, signs, etc., and 3) the idea that is expressed in a work of writing, art, etc.​" and that is how I feel, too.

If my sister returns my essay with comments, I promise I will post that, too. Until then, a Merrppy Christmagiving to you all, to all a good night!


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Written by Christina Van Dyke
the academic world
philosophy professor at a liberal arts college, writing about medieval views on the afterlife, gendered eating, and the perils of on-line dating.

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