Don’t get me wrong, I love this woman. She has all the qualities I look for in a friend: She is funny (and thinks I am), straight-forward (in a vocal, endearing kind of way), loves a wine. We’ve been friends for decades – the kind of friends who go away on weekends together and call each other if there’s a crisis. We were a girl squad long before Taylor Swift came along.
We don’t need to validate our friendship with a tube of hand cream.
But she also has a house that is bulging with stuff. Clothes she’s never worn. Crystal glasses passed down from her mum, sideboards heaving with photos, jewellery spilling from boxes in her bedroom and bathroom and one of the best handbag collections in the country crowding not only her side of the wardrobe, but most of the built-in in the spare room.
And I will be adding to this catalogue of ordered chaos and abundance because I feel I have to.
The inescapable truth is she doesn’t need a thing. And neither do I. But she will shower me with gifts – plural. She’s that kind of person. She can’t come to dinner without bringing herbs from the garden and a small, beautiful gift and a bottle. Or two. And even if we have the conversation (‘Let’s just go share a good bottle of wine somewhere nice, let’s not do presents’), she won’t follow through.
Instead, she’ll hand over a beautifully wrapped little pile of goodies on the night, and explain she couldn’t resist because they’d be perfect in the spare bathroom. And they would be. She’s the person for whom the phrase ‘generous to a fault’ could have been originally coined.
In years gone by, I’ve loved buying for her. I’ve ferreted around boutiques and markets to find that perfect gift, and loved the look on her face that says I’ve cracked it.
But this year something has switched.
People queuing for ages just to step foot inside a shop. A friend telling me she doesn’t have a clue what to get her son because what he wants comes down to two options – a new computer worth northward of $2000 or a collection of R-rated games that he can play remotely with his friends. A colleague who thoughtshe had the perfect gift for the son of her new partner – a football – only to discover he’d bought it for himself, unable to wait the five short weeks until December 25.
Am I the only one who feels like it’s all become a bit empty, a bit of a chore?
Pondering this, I googled ‘do we spend too much at Christmas’. I got 51 MILLION hits – admittedly, I didn’t read them all, but the general consensus was a big, fat ‘Yes’.