I want to tell you a story. One of the best gifts I ever received I never actually got.
I was moving out of my parents’ house into the city and my birthday was about six weeks prior. My brother decided he wanted to get me a shower radio for my new apartment. We have always shared one because we shared a bathroom. He told me he was going to get this for me, but he never did. And I didn’t care. The thought that he wanted to get a new one for me is what truly mattered. The fact that he wanted to get me my own shower radio was the gift.
I’ve told this story countless times. Okay maybe like six or seven, but his desire to get me the gift was the best gift he could ever give me. That or beer. I really like beer.
Now I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Adam,” (because that’s my name) “What does that have to do with a significant Chanukah nickel?” And perhaps you are also thinking, “Why not a Chanukah dime? A Chanukah quarter? A Chanukah two-dollar bill!?” Well, don’t worry about those. That’d be if we considered inflation, which we won’t. Besides, I detest inflation. It’s why I’m always popping balloons. But what that story has to do with a significant Chanukah nickel is pretty much everything I value when it comes to gifts these days.
As my life has progressed, I’ve become content with not receiving gifts to the point that I prefer it. Giving gifts on the other hand, well, I’d technically be content without that too. Both sides of figuring out the right gift are stressful. Stressful to a point that stresses me out just thinking about how much it stresses me out. Not to mention, the most difficult expression to fake is the reaction to a present. Good, bad, ugly – it’s impossible to falsify.
But, despite my slight disdain towards gifts, I still value them, and what I’ve come to value comes directly from my experience, every single year at Chanukah, with my Zaydie: the most wise and knowledgeable man to have ever existed. He also has a full head of hair and the hair gene is supposedly with your mother’s father so I’m set and oh, so thankful for that. Did you see the picture at the top of the blog? That was us over 20 years ago. Same hair today. Both of us.
Now, what I give my Zaydie for Chanukah every year instead of what some might consider an actual gift is one thing and one thing only:
A nickel. Just a nickel.
But it’s not just a nickel. It’s the most wonderful and heartfelt moment of Chanukah for me. I’ve said before that Chanukah isn't as important to me as other holidays, but every year when I get to this moment, the true meaning of my Chanukah is realized.
See, when my Zaydie was young, all he ever got for the holiday was – you guessed it – a nickel. You read the title of the blog, didn’t you? You’re such a sleuth. And you keep scrolling back up to the top of this piece. Stop it. For my Zaydie, getting a nickel back then was a huge deal. I mean, with a nickel you could buy a car and a cherry phosphate down at the local soda shop. So today, that’s all he asks for (a nickel, not a cherry phosphate). All of his grandchildren give him one and I know that makes him feel like a millionaire, and it has nothing to do with his abundance of nickels.
I have equated this into my own philosophy with gifts. I love when there is thought behind them. I know that the sentiment of “it’s the thought that counts” isn’t new by any means, but I hold this very close to my own beliefs; hence my love for the shower radio I never received. What I like is to give gifts when I want to and not because I’m expected to. It’s not fun for me giving gifts for the sake of giving gifts. I enjoy when I have the organic thought of, “this would be perfect for that special someone” and then get to give that perfection to that special someone. Also, I enjoy that it’s completely unexpected. Part of my apathy for required gift-giving is I don’t like keeping secrets. When I want to give a gift for no special reason other than the recipient is special, I don’t have to keep it a secret. Holding on to a present without saying anything for weeks is excruciating. Pretty much the same feeling I get when I wake up two minutes before my alarm goes off in the morning.
Looking back before that life progression thing, when I was a child, gifts were great. I loved them. I yearned for them. But I was a selfish, selfish child. Remember that Bar Mitzvah I had? I didn’t put a single dime into that, let alone a significant Chanukah nickel. Once I got to college, my aunts and uncles kept it simple and would give me 20 bucks as a gift for Chanukah. That was great. Perfect gift. But I have hindsight now, and it has nothing to do with butts.
I don’t need gifts anymore. Again, that’s not to say I don’t like getting or giving gifts, but I don’t need them. I’m 26-and-a-half years old. I’m almost a full-grown man. So when there is something in this world that I want, I simply get it. That kind of makes it difficult to answer what I want for my birthday or Chanukah, so the answer is inevitably nothing. If there’s something I want, I am in a fortunate position with my life to get it. Lucky for me, most of the things I want fall under the category of a McDonald’s double cheeseburger or a nap. So when I say I don’t need anything for my birthday or Chanukah, I mean it. Now that it’s in writing, maybe some people (Mom) will know I’m not kidding.
I actually made her cry once. Okay, maybe just a strong sniffle. Didn’t do it on purpose but I kept saying I didn’t want anything for my birthday and she didn’t like that. Sorry mom. But as I’ve told you time and time again, aren’t you a gift enough?
I’ll accept my ‘Child of the Year’ award now.