It’s that time of year when marketing specialists are working closely with their clients in an effort to get the latest products front and center, just in time for Christmas shopping. Whether it’s gadgets, toys, album releases or automobiles, everyone’s scrambling to ensure their latest must-haves are timed perfectly for public consumption. What the experts might be missing, however, is the subtle shift that’s taking place these days – and if they’re smart, they’ll take notice of it sooner rather than later.
The recession over the past few years has really caused many of us to take a step back and re-evaluate our “stuff”. Job losses, foreclosures and uncertainty about the future has made many realize all the things they’ve acquired over the years mean little if there’s no house to put them in. Priorities have certainly shifted.
We all want our lives memorialized in some important way; we want to stand apart and we want meaning attached to what we hope will be a well-lived life. There’s a reason for all the endless models of BlackBerry, iPhone and computers; and there’s a reason for countless ways of personalizing everything we own. No one wants the same cell everyone at the office has. Before long, though, it becomes tiresome and usually, all of these “things” become a burden. So if we’re not as excited by the prospect of unwrapping the latest iPad on Christmas morning, what is it that will have us declaring, “This is the best gift ever!!”?
Brace yourself – the answer is actually quite simple. This year, sentimentality rules and the value is not even slightly based on how much money was spent. Husbands and wives are presenting one another with beautifully framed photos of their childhoods, or better, they’re looking through all those old pictures in search of finding two pictures – one of themselves and one of the spouse – that are similar in pose and age. It’s the symbolism that’s expressed in these one of a kind gifts and they’re the ones that will be long remembered after the iPad and BlackBerry is an antiquated has-been – much like the beta tapes from the early 1980s and 8 track tapes of the 1970s are.
Want proof? Four words: the Christmas of 1995. I received a lot of gifts, but don’t ask me what they were. I truly can’t remember – except for one very special present that my Mom made for my sister and me. It is by far the most treasured gift I’ve ever received that came wrapped and from under a Christmas tree. It was a book of index cards, spiral bound, that she wrote in her beautiful Catholic school-inspired handwriting. In it, she spoke of where each of us were that year – my dad, my sister, her kids and my Jacob and of course, she and I. She put in writing all of those hilarious stories from our childhoods – my sister’s brazen comments to her teachers in hers and my adamant declarations to my own kindergarten teacher that I did not come from a stork was put in my green recipe book. She put all of the recipes that we were raised on and included a few different ones that she thought I’d like in mine and a few my sister would like to make for her own family in her book. She told stories that we’d never heard before, each card a memorial to our family. I can tell you, without a doubt, when the time comes to gather up and head north when a hurricane approaches, I make sure I have photos and my recipe book – the rest of the “stuff”, including my flat screen, furniture and even my library of books – it all stays behind.
When it comes right down to it, isn’t that what a gift should mean to all of us?