Whatcha want for Christmas?
Recently, I was asked what I wanted for Christmas.
Funny question and one I really didn’t know how to answer.
I’ve never known how to answer that one.
When I was young, I could think of all sorts of things, toys, trinkets, games, records, posters, anything and everything I thought I needed to fill my world. As a child, having those things really meant something to me.
Nowadays I don’t feel that way. In fact, I spend time thinking of things I need or want to get rid of.
Has anyone ever noticed that no matter what you do, things accumulate seemingly on their own? Weird isn’t it? They just appear… out of nowhere and sometimes I look at something in my house and wonder why it’s even there to begin with. I have to laugh at myself because I know I bought it or acquired it somewhere but, I often forget why I felt such a need for it after a time. At the time, it seemed to be such an urgent need, something I absolutely could not do without.
And as usual, I start thinking. I think back on when I had very little, like when I came home from the war. I think of when I was homeless with nowhere to go. I think of how liberating and free that was. All that I owned could fit in my CR-V and I think of how happy I was without things.
I’ve found that things tend to make me feel weighted down. Things seem like a burden to me more often than not and I often feel that the best times in my life were when I was free of things.
I remember when I was younger and spent a great deal of time on the road. I was a drifter, free, rambling on from place to place, spending time in every state, meeting interesting people, and exploring the culture of America. I loved that and have a mind full of memories that make me smile to this day. I’ve crossed this country more times than I can count and back then all I had was a bag of clothes, a sleeping bag, a journal, my Honda Civic, and a full tank of gas.
I can remember picking raspberries in the mountains of Utah with a bunch of migrant workers so I could buy a tank of gas to get back to Denver. I remember being chased off the plains of Wyoming late one night soon after I pitched my tent by a pack of coyotes. I remember the waitress who chatted with me when I stopped by the restaurant she worked in late one night in Kansas City. I remember waking up soaked in sweat in my sleeping bag as I was camping in Florida one morning, only to take a sunrise swim in the ocean. I remember marveling at the Native American ruins in Arizona, cliff dwellings still intact. I remember going to the top of the arch in St. Louis, the Gateway to the West. I remember watching the surf on the coast of Oregon and walking the beach with the seagulls flying overhead. I remember Bourbon Street in New Orleans, with the music undulating through the air and the smell of good food. I remember the thunderous roar of Niagara Falls and wondering why on earth anyone would want to go over them. I remember the wind in the Badlands of South Dakota and the sunset over the farmlands of Illinois, corn gently swaying in the summer air. I remember field upon field of sunflowers in Nebraska and watching a lightning show on the horizon late one night while parked on the side of the highway.
These memories mean more to me than any “thing” I could possibly imagine.
I guess when someone asks me what I want for Christmas it isn’t a thing that I want, it’s the memory of spending and sharing time with them. No matter what happens, that will always be with me.