Keeping It Complicated for Christmas

I bought my daughter a garbage disposal for Christmas this year. I’m sentimental that way. Nothing says the birth of the savior like a machine that grinds discarded food. She even knows about it, because when the plumber arrived one morning to replace the kitchen faucet before the tile guys started their work, she asked about the box that had been delivered the day before, assuming it to be the faucet she had ordered. It wasn’t.

In reality, it was a 3/4-horsepower garbage disposal I had gotten for her, which was fortuitous, since the plumber had intended to buy a garbage disposal and install it with the new faucet anyway. So, we killed two birds with one stone and my daughter got an early Christmas present. I believe that’s called a win-win-win situation.

If you’ve read The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera, you might appreciate my use of “fortuitous.” In that novel, the characters read either too many or too few things into the events of daily life, especially Tereza, who believes everything is meant to be and finds significance in a park bench. For her, things just don’t happen but are part of destiny or God’s will.

Now, I don’t necessarily believe that the garbage disposal was God’s will or part of the divine plan of redemption, but it’s hard to ignore the uncanny timing of plumber, tile layers, my daughter, garbage disposal, and me all coming together in a sort of kitchen ballet. It makes a double play on a dribbler up the middle look positively boring.

It is also fortuitous that this happened when it did, since no one in the house would have been able to install the garbage disposal on their own without the plumber’s help. The plumber told me this, and I don’t think he was trying to drum up business or work a tip. Try getting a plumber during the holidays. That alone is a miracle of Christmas.

Thanks to the kitchen ballet, I stumbled upon a subtle but lethal flaw with giving a gift before Christmas. I believe this flaw affects all celebrations involving gifts such as birthdays, graduations, and anniversaries. It is so critical to understand that I feel compelled to break it down for you.

Most people assume that there are two parts of gift giving: giving and receiving. That sounds reasonable enough. Some might parse this out and include the gift itself or the act of buying the gift. But I put all of these into the same category of giving. After all, you can’t give what you don’t already have, and I won’t create another category just for laying down a credit card or parking the car.

I have identified three parts of gift giving: giving, receiving, and unwrapping. Technically, somebody could receive a gift but then not open it. Did they really receive it? More importantly, did they receive it in the spirit in which it was given? This is more than Jerry Seinfeld at the rental car counter going on about the difference between taking and holding a reservation. Why? Because Seinfeld still got a car to drive, but my daughter will not have a gift to open on Christmas morning.

This is intolerable, remedied easily enough by giving her another gift. But that complicates an already complicated situation, what with other daughters and enough grandkids to start a children’s choir. So, I will buy more gifts knowing that giving is like losing weight, and who doesn’t like that?

What counts is the act of unwrapping, discovering, revealing. When you unwrap something you move it from the unknown into the known. It’s like turning into the proverbial fly on the wall, finding out what people really think, or peeking into your host’s medicine cabinet.

On one hand, unwrapping works against complication by providing both an answer and closure. Oh, a Philips’ Sonicare electric toothbrush with three premium heads to meet all my dental needs? How thoughtful.

On the other hand, it complicates things because now you have to figure out how in God’s name to brush your teeth, which you never anticipated being a problem when you got up this morning. This is why people believe life is more complicated today. It’s because of things like electric toothbrushes. At least a garbage disposal and manger have something in common.

Feature image by Ben White on Unsplash. Faucet by Skitterphoto from Pexels. Gift by Kira auf der Heide on Unsplash. For more, go to Robert Brancatelli. The Brancatelli Blog is a member of The Free Media Alliance, which promotes “alternatives to software, culture, and hardware monopolies.”


  1. Rob- you are philosophical, spiritual, analytical, creative and are blessed with Brancatelli wit, that when combined, produces writing that causes me to think, laugh and say, “Aha, so true!” (Shall I ever forget that “I’ll hum” ad lib during a Bear Pit production at Ursinus all those years ago!).

  2. Robert, your daughters and grandchildren are so blessed to have you in their lives-as are your students and many friends! Peaceful and Joyous Christmas as we move through these precious days the Irish call “the thin places” where heaven and earth come especially close.

  3. “I have identified three parts of gift giving: giving, receiving, and unwrapping. Technically, somebody could receive a gift but then not open it. Did they really receive it?”
    This is sort of a Schrodinger’s gift, isn’t it??

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