Erin's Journals

Monday, April 29, 2024

Just a thought… Optimism isn’t a belief that things will automatically get better; it’s a conviction that we can make things better. [Melinda Gates]

If I titled these journals, which I don’t, I think I’d call it “My Life in a Gift Bag.”

As we continue to sort and donate (including to – details in a video tomorrow on their weekend pickups all summer), I found myself on Saturday in the laundry room, knee-deep in piles of gift bags.

About three-quarters of them were Christmas bags: some had been labelled and relabelled, some used only once. A few had the store-attached labels on them filled out, but most were in good or fair condition.

I piled them according to their destination: new condo (see last week’s journal here if you missed the story of why and where), donation pile, and garbage or recycling. Here are a few favourites that made the “condo” pile. Bought these ones full price – and you know how rare that can be in these dollar store days!

As I posted on FB Saturday, someone needs to stage an intervention the next time I find myself carefully peeling off a label and tucking that bag away. And then I wondered what it is about gift bags that tells me something about myself, and I figured it out: it plays perfectly into the whole idea of who I am.

I am, as I’ve often said here, the kid digging in the pile of manure who’s sure there’s a pony in there somewhere. I have this uncanny (and often unfounded) sense of optimism that is enough to drive Rob crazy: when the Amazon truck comes, I think it might be a gift. When someone arrives at the door, I wonder if perhaps it’s flowers.

I think that the reason I hold on to the bags is because I am always expecting happy events: ones where you would give a gift to someone you love. Maybe there’d be one in return – it doesn’t matter. My outlook is often disgustingly, impossibly cheery.

Then there’s the other part of saving bags. When I took the time to read some of the labels, to make sure that I wasn’t donating ones that had someone’s writing on them, I was taken back to family events of 10, 15 years ago: there was the name of nieces with whom we haven’t shared a Christmas in that long a time, a bag for my aunt (how I ended up with the bag, I’m not sure, but I’m pretty good at squirrelling them away before the recipient knows they’re missing) and, of course, the labels on which we’d written our late daughter’s name.

One very small one had a sticker on it upon which I’d written “Open Me Last.” Was it her “big” gift that year? A cellphone, perhaps? A message that told her where to go look for a surprise gift that wasn’t under the tree? I couldn’t recall and wish that I could. Or maybe not.

As our family Christmases likely come to an end this year (we’ll probably go east in the fall for birthdays and Thanksgiving) I wonder about whether we’ll be somewhere warm for the holidays, if Rob takes hockey retirement or a hiatus. I can’t picture anything beyond trying to get the house ready for listing right now, but time will march on, as it tends to do.

As with all things in life, we don’t know what lies ahead: what challenges, what changes – and always – what gifts.

So I’ll pack away a few and hope to fill them with the ideas of happy moments that still lie ahead. Memories yet to be made, for many years to come. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a pony to find.

Rob WhiteheadMonday, April 29, 2024