April 4, 2020

Gift Me No Gifts

Rehoboth Ramblings


I don’t know why I get so annoyed by the new trend of using “gift” as a verb, as in “he gifted me with a new ring.” For example, I’m looking at a glossy magazine ad from Hermes that says “Gift Me a Dream.” Of course, for the French people at this tres chic fashion empire, English is their second language.

This usage of “gift” has obviously become acceptable because even the most admired and respected writers use it, but it just sounds so wrong to me, almost as jarring as hearing someone say “I seen” or “he come over.” Gift as a verb is used strictly for gift-giving or receiving; otherwise you still use “gave”. You wouldn’t say “the meter maid gifted me with a parking ticket” or at least I wouldn’t. Ah well, no one is making me use the word gift in this way so I’ll continue to avoid it.

The gift I would most like for Christmas is a visit from the junk removal people. Please, take things away; don’t give me more stuff. Ironically, Marie Kondo, the Japanese queen of tidying-up, is now selling merchandise online, such as simple but elegant Japanese slippers for over $200. None of these items are cheap, such as a $50 Chakra tuning fork (with $75 it comes with a crystal). People are asking: “More stuff to have to throw away later, Marie?” Or perhaps “gift” to someone else down the line. I assume all the items are intended to “spark joy” but give me a break.

The gift I would least like for Christmas is one of those silly Christmas costumes for adults that I just saw at Target (and presumably are for sale all over the place). I know that the ugly Christmas sweater contest has become quite a thing at the holidays, but why an entire garish outfit? Is it Christmas or Halloween? Of course, these days Christmas seems to start right after Halloween.

If you’re one of the many people who hate the early darkness of winter afternoons, here’s something to think about. If you look at the sunrise/sunset chart for this area in December, you’ll see that the earliest sunsets occur at 4:13 p.m. from Dec. 7-10, so by the Winter Solstice the evenings are already getting lighter, however slightly. Winter Solstice on Dec. 21 is still the day with the shortest amount of daylight overall; it’s six hours darker than on the Summer Solstice.

The reason for this is the elliptical pattern of the Earth’s orbit. This also means that sunrises run a bit later, even into January, but most of us mind the dark more in the evening anyway. You wouldn’t think just a couple more minutes of light in late afternoon would mean much, but it does provide a lift. I always look up photos of people celebrating the Winter Solstice at Stonehenge but I wouldn’t really want to be hanging out on Salisbury Plain before dawn in the dead of winter.

This year we’re planning to visit a new holiday light display at the Eleanor Cabot Bradley Estate in Canton. This is a first for this historic estate that is managed by the Trustees of Reservations. The other locations for “Winterlights” are in Stockbridge and North Andover, so this one in Canton is more convenient for those of us south of Boston. It is open on Friday, Saturday, and Sundays nights from 5 to 8 p.m. until Dec. 29. Check www.thetrustees.org/winterlights for more details on tickets, parking, etc.

Speaking of the dark, when reading Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” recently I was reminded that the despairing poet sets his verse “in the bleak December”. The dark days can be even harder on those suffering from the loss of a loved one, as Poe writes of “the lost Lenore”. As another American author, the songwriter Stephen Foster, wrote: “Let us pause in life’s pleasures and count its many tears” and take a moment to think of all those we know who will have a difficult holiday season due to a tragic loss or some other trouble, whether recently or at holidays past. How difficult it must be for a lot of people this time of year when everyone else seems to be celebrating.

And now here it is almost 2020, a date that still looks funny to me. Where did the past two decades ago, I wonder? Already we’ve seen many quips about 2020 and perfect vision, being able to see clearly, etc. Being able to see clearly (literally and metaphorically) would be a great gift for all in the coming year.


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