with Lorelle and Brent VanFossen

All We Want For Christmas is Nothing

“People just don’t understand.”

So comments Brent as we try to explain to my father that we don’t want anything for Christmas. “Honestly, we don’t want anything.”

Unfortunately, he, like everyone else, doesn’t understand that we really do not want anything for Christmas, or birthdays, or any other gift giving holiday.

What you all don’t understand is that we live on the road. This means that everything we have, we carry with us everywhere we go. Now, if we were living out of a backpack, you might understand that we don’t have room for anything since we would have to carry it on our backs. But because people assume that we live a “normal” lifestyle by living in a trailer or overseas, they seem to think that we need stuff. Well, we don’t.

When we got married, we came up with a clever saying on our wedding announcements: “Your presence is our presents.” Most people got the hint. When they called and insisted that they had to spend money on stuff for us, we had a specific list of items we needed for our life on the road. For those who bought us crystal, silver candle sticks, and glass bowls, all were returned to the stores and the money put into our gas fund.

At a second reception in Oklahoma, we wanted to use our same wedding invites, but Brent’s parents are classic southern appropriate folks and they found the “presence is our presents” to be…shall I say offensive? That might be too harsh. They found it impolite and rude. After all, it is traditional to bring presents for the bride and groom.

Excuse me? There are lots of traditions that don’t involve wedding gifts. In Israel and Jewish wedding ceremonies, gifts are not given. Money is given. This is to not only offset the cost of the wedding and your meal at the reception but to help the young couple get started. In other countries, money is also given, or other non-stuff items. And in other places, only things the couple actually must have in order to get started are acceptable gifts.

So they changed the invitations and people brought heaping piles of gifts. The next four days were spent returning almost all of them, a humiliating experience and a great time waster, and writing thank you notes for over a week for things we never wanted in the first place and had to return. I hated lying and telling them how lovely the huge glass punch bowl was when it was already waiting for another wedding shower back in the store.

Brent and I were both over 30 and way past needing “stuff”. In fact, we were merging two self-sufficient households into one with tons of our own stuff to debate and discard between us. Candle sticks, crystal, silverware, and vases aren’t high on our priority list of things we needed in our trailer and life on the road.

We had several garage sales and threw out tons of stuff to consolidate our two lives into one small apartment when we got married. When we moved into the trailer, we had six garage sales to shrink down our lives even more. People volunteered to care for our fish and other large items of furniture that we just didn’t have the heart to sell. As we’ve traveled, we pruned down even more, and really shrunk things down when moving to Israel with eight suitcases filled with mostly Brent’s work and books.

Returning to the trailer five years later, we continued to pitch and toss things we once thought necessary but now think of them as space wasters. And we return to the states to face another holiday where people just feel obliged to give, give, give, whether the people want the shit or not.

Well, we don’t.

So if you are in a mood to give, give, give, of your hard earned money to people like us who don’t want anything, take us seriously when we say we don’t want things, stuff, junk, shit, clutter, fru fru, bits, pieces, and cute wonders. We really mean it.

If you still have to part with cash for things we don’t need, here is a list of things you can give that would thrill us totally and completely.

  • Donate to a worthy cause in our name, be it a gift of a tree planted in Israel, money to Hurricane Katrina victims, the lung and heart associations, cancer causes, and any other worthy organization.
  • Give food. We like food. It’s consumable.
  • Give food to food banks. We’re plenty healthy and overweight and we really don’t need the food so give it to those who do and tell us.
  • Give hugs. If you are near us, give us a hug. If you are not, send one via an email or letter or phone call.
  • Call. Just pick up the phone and chat with us for 20 minutes and we’re thrilled to no end.
  • Write. Be it by email or letter, write and let us know what is going on in your life and what have you learned and how life has changed for you.
  • Make arrangements to take you and a partner or friend out to dinner and the theater or movie and call it a date from us and we’ll do the same in your name. Just pretend we gave you the night out and we’ll do the same.
  • Make a list of 30 Things You Can Do in 30 Seconds to Change the World and share it with others.
  • Pay for dinner or lunch when we are with you and call it a gift. Then let us return the favor next time.
  • Send money. There is nothing wrong with sending money if you do have to give the money away. Cash is a good thing.
  • Give gift certificates. Again, if you have money to burn, give gift certificates, just make sure that the store is nearby and the kind of place we tend to shop at. For us, here back in the states, Lowes, Home Depot, and WalMart top the list of places where we spend too much money all the time fixing the trailer.
  • Send love. That’s better than any gift you can find in a store.

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