Christmas. Hanukkah. Winter Solstice. Kwanzaa. Winter Veil. Oh, and let’s not forget Festivus (“for the rest of us,” of course).
I love it. As stressful and tiring as the holiday season is, I absolutely love it.
Of course, every year I try to think of something to do with/for the guild during this time. I tried writing a rhyme/story for them this year, but it fell apart when things became hectic and I no longer had time to write. One of my guildmates, who had the now-defunct magazine subscription, gave me his pet codes and I wracked my brain for ideas on how to give them away. I still have nothing. Maybe I’ll think of something before Christmas Eve rolls around.
Last Friday, I volunteered with the Salvation Army all day, helping families pick out presents for their kids so they’d have something to unwrap on Christmas morning. It’s a Christmas tradition I’ve been doing since junior year of high school when it was just a community service project for CSF (California Scholarship Federation). I took that torch and carried it with me through college and across the country to where I am today.
Kids have the rest of their lives to realize that Christmas is all about togetherness, love, warmth, family, hope, mercy, and goodness. And while, like Charlie Brown, I’m eager to press the idea of “Christmas beyond presents,” the joy of unwrapping presents on Christmas morning is still something to be cherished— as the recipient and giver. The sheer amount of toys we were giving away was indicative of the wonderful, generous spirit of other people.
And I noticed on Friday that, of all the families I helped, they didn’t just come for the toys and books. They wanted to talk about their lives, too, and their own Christmas-related things. Something I couldn’t do as a high school or college student was relate to these folks beyond the volunteer-client level. As a parent, however, we shared stories about our kids and families with one another. We were, if for only a few minutes, the best of friends brought together by happenstance and the Christmas spirit.
My guild, with its multitude of parents and grandparents, is very much the same. Sure, we talk about ourselves and all that, but more often than not, we talk about our kids. If anything, the magic of Christmas that I carry with me stems from my own childhood memories and visions. My husband often agrees that our “traditions” are attempts at recreating the Christmases of our past, whether it’s reading The Night Before Christmas or baking cookies in multitude. And we want to create more traditions that we hope our daughter will cherish on her own later on in life.
Then that got me thinking… Of all the things my character does in-game for Winter Veil, why haven’t I been sent over to the orphanage once?!
Not once have I been asked by the Matron or “Great Father Winter” to donate a toy. I’ve never been given a quest to help the kids build a snowman or snow fort for a snowball fight. I keep getting ragdolls and racers and paper zeppelins in my daily present boxes from defeating the Greench; I’d much rather give them to an orphan instead of selling it for gold (I lack bag space and people to play with). And where’s my cooking daily to bake gingerbread cookies for the orphanage Winter Veil party? When do I get to read the Winter Veil story to the kids?
Not once have I made an NPC in the game happy with my Winter Veil deeds.
(Those Smokeywood Pastures people don’t count. Sorry.)
Remembering the happiness people went away with after I’ve helped them on Friday, I realize that it’s not about what I do or give materially to my guildies. It’s all about the intangible things. I cherish their companionship and our camaraderie; it’s what’s kept us going all of these years, after all. My continued service to be the best officer and guildmate for them is an ongoing gift throughout the year, just as their presence, jokes, and friendship are gifts to me.
I’ve tried explaining to people precisely why I love my guildmates so much, even if I’ve never actually met most of them. I’m fairly certain that my mail carrier boggled at the addresses on the Christmas cards I sent out: some to California, some local in Ohio, but then there were a few to Virgina, one to Connecticut. They’re as diverse as the people in my life, and I’m ever grateful for them.
Maybe next year I’ll finally finish that tongue-in-cheek guild story celebrating our awesome shenanigans. Till then, however, I’m going to enjoy the season and my friends instead of losing sight of them in trying to find “the perfect gift.”
To everyone who’s reading: Whatever your reason for celebrating this season, I hope this day and all the days to come are fantastic and beautiful.
Merry Christmas, everyone!!