For some reason, I have the lyrics to Joni Mitchell’s song River rolling through my head a lot lately. “It’s coming on Christmas / They’re cutting down trees / They’re putting up reindeer / And singing songs of joy and peace…”. No matter what Christmas station I listen to on the radio / Pandora / Spotify — This is the song that finds its way into my mental rotation. Sort of heart-aching and beautiful, but it doesn’t exactly elicit those warm, fuzzy Christmas-of-yore feelings we so yearn to capture as adults.
I’m not sure where those feelings went, or when they started to dissipate, but I do miss that magic and the ritual.
This year, for Christmas, T & I decided that we didn’t want to be a part of the hustle and bustle. We decided to take our allotted Christmas gift budget and, instead of buying gifts for our family, we would donate the money (& make gifts for the fam with what we had on hand). This year, for whatever reason, this felt far more important (not that this year is any different than any other, in reality).
We donated to several organizations that help keep the homeless fed and warm during the colder weather. Because, honestly, ‘there but for the grace of God go I.’ We also sent medical supplies to the folks at Standing Rock after the water canon incident. We opted to keep cash in our wallets to give to people standing out in the freezing weather with their signs asking for help and statements of “God Bless You.”
We opted for all of this, with one exception to our budget. Books. We set aside money so we could buy each other books.
We both love the ritual of Jolabokaflod (Yo-la-Bo-ka-flood) the Icelandic tradition of gifting books for Christmas. For us, the giving of books has as much weight as donating to those in need. Whether collecting or reading, books are far too important (in our house) to disregard. We should probably have a sign that reads “Food, Shelter, Books.”
Yesterday (11 days into December, and 14 days out from Christmas), we ventured out to the bookstore. We have several independent bookstores here now, but we found ourselves in proximity to the Barnes & Noble, so that’s where we ended up. I’d actually forgotten (gasp) that B&N had signed books for sale. Just too many other things on my mind lately. I was happy to see that the selection had dwindled a bit since Thanksgiving. Instead of the tables stacked with autographed tomes, there was one small section of shelves left. (I hope this is because people bought a lot of books & not because they had a smaller stock of books to begin with.)
They had one signed Lois Lowry left on the shelf, so I grabbed it. It was a bit shelf worn—but it was Lois Lowry. I hugged it to my chest as I walked around the store. Funny that I now own 3 copies of The Giver. None of them first editions. (It makes me wonder, when I die, what people will think about this weird lady with all of the books.)
I also found a book that T had expressed interest in months ago. I’m sure she’s forgotten by now, so it should be a surprise.
Beyond that, I found myself wandering to the “news stand” section. Once upon a time you could find all varieties of newspapers there. I was sad to see that this is no longer the case (& probably hasn’t been the case for a while). I just really wanted to hold the New York Times in my hands. Now, strangely, it looks like the only place I can get the NYT, other than directly from the source, is Starbucks. I’m grateful that they carry it, but what a strange time we live in.
T & I will be celebrating Jolabokaflod on the 21st this year (which happens to be solstice, although we didn’t plan that). After that we will be busy traveling and spending time with family, but I will report back what books we got.
I hope this finds you well, and I hope that you receive many books this holiday season.