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December 03, 2008

...and a Goat tied to a Pear Tree

2_3 My younger step-daughter protests the practice of consumer Christmases. Presents should spring from the generosity of the soul regardless of the day of the year, she says. And she punctuates her point with goats. Not because she is Wiccan, I don't think Wicca is a goat based belief system, but because she doesn't believe we should give gifts according to the tyranny of the calendar. Unless it is her birthday. I am that way about birthdays myself. I am less than thrilled with the goat thing.

She informed her dad recently that she would once again be making charitable donations in our names in lieu of presents and gifting us instead with proof of how our contributions have improved the lives of less fortunate people in other countries.

No, not people in the U.S. Other poor people who appreciate the advantages of goat ownership. I don't think that it is bad enough in my homeland for suburbanites to consider converting their two and three car garages into mangers - yet.

According to my husband this practice began a few years ago when Jor presented the family with cards and certificates informing them that trees had been planted or goats purchased for families in need in other countries via different charitable organizations.

"She realizes that her six year old sister will probably not receive a goat well - especially one that is essentially imaginary from her point of view?" I asked.

"I think it's probably just us and her older sister who will get goats."

And I am okay with a goat. Really. To be honest I am hard pressed to come up with a list of wants anymore. I told my mother, Auntie and sister I thought we should skip the gift exchange this year except for the kids and even then modest was best. No one argued with me. Goat? Mittens? It's all the same to me.

Well, okay, I admit there is something a little presumptuous about making donations in someone's name. How do I know that given all the poor people around the world, I would actually choose goats over other options when I don't even know what the other options are? As a feminist, I think I would prefer something that improves a woman's lot in life as opposed to providing her with one more chore. But who am I to say that "goat" isn't a lap of luxury item to one of my sisters?

The gift of goat though reminds me how complex Christmas has become in our still newly blended family. Jor, my husband's younger daughter, is Wiccan. Fair, the older, is militantly anti-Christian. My husband Rob was raised semi-atheist. I am lapsed cradle Catholic. The youngest, Kat,  is just confused and if she had her way we would be celebrating Hanukkah because she fell in love with the dreidel and the menorrah after a multi-cultural unit presented during her stint at a Montessori pre-school a few years ago.

Without the prezzies, I wonder where will we find our common ground? We need a new space on life's landscape. So is it goats? New hats and gloves are better because a person always can use those on the western prairies of Alberta. I make certain to have fresh oranges for the stockings - something Rob's late wife did and an idea which tickled my late father when I told him about it last year. He and his siblings always got oranges for Christmas back in the depression era. And of course there are socks, renewing the sock drawer is a powerful symbol for the new year and remarkably bonding because my step-daughters and I have roughly the same sized feet - big.

Being in Canada, there really are twelve days of Christmas in the old world sense, so I will graciously accept pear trees planted in my name with a goat attached to each for extra special measure. Miss Manners needn't bother to remind me it's the thought that counts.

Ann Bibby is an American writer living in western Canada. In addition to 50 Something Moms, she writes her own blog Anniegirl1138. Currently she is hard at work on her memoir.


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