Christina Capecchi
Twenty Something
December 13, 2023 // Perspective

Keep the Candle Lit: Pouring Out the Greatest Gift

Christina Capecchi
Twenty Something

Oprah Winfrey looks regal in a purple pleated skirt and matching sweater, beaming on the cover of the magazine that delivers her much-anticipated Favorite Things – “112 crowd-pleasing gifts for everyone on your list.”

Now in her ninth year partnering with Amazon, Oprah vouches for each product with her trademark hype: a $22 silk eye mask she calls “life-changing,” $350 Beats headphones that are “the best of the best,” a $600 TrueBrew Drip Coffee Maker she lauds as “a dream for persnickety coffee drinkers.” Not to mention her new book, which will help you “be happier in 2024.”

It’s commerce with a spiritual bent. “What I know for sure,” Oprah writes, “is that what you give comes back to you.” 

I’ve always been intrigued by the television queen’s shopping list, but what strikes me most is how much company she now has. These days, everyone has a holiday gift guide – from high-profile peddlers to micro-influencers and suburban moms. 

You can follow them in real time, linking every item. The wreaths they’re hanging. The bows they’re hanging on the wreaths they’re hanging. The joggers they’re wearing while they’re hanging the bows on the wreaths they’re hanging. 

’Tis the season to spend money. It’s never been easier to do, requiring the kind of deliberation that vanishes in the blink of an eye, the tap of a button. It can almost feel like play money – no paper trail, no accountability, just an invisible Venmo transaction. 

What we lack in time, we try to make up for in money, throwing it at people and problems who actually need minutes and hours. The kindergartener doesn’t need a fancy new baseball glove but an adult to play catch with. Back and forth, again and again, chasing all the errant throws until, finally, there are fewer. 

Our immigrant ancestors had no money and all the time in the world. They made use of long bus rides, early mornings, tiny apartments, daily walks to Mass. Stitching and scheming, painting and plotting.  

Today, we have flipped the script. We have all the money in the world, so it seems, but no time. We’re busy. And when we’re not busy, we’re distracted by screens siphoning our precious time. But the things we buy cannot replace quality time spent with loved ones. 

I once read an article about a troubled teen who was turning to the wrong remedies. Her parents recognized a better one and chose to lavish her with their time and attention.

“We took her kayaking, played more board games with her, watched more TV with her, and took other short family trips,” her mom said. They asked their teen to stay off the internet and instead keep a journal. She obliged, even though she was frustrated.

Eventually, something shifted. Her depression lifted, and, in its place, a sense of self emerged.

This will be our first Christmas without my paternal grandma, who showered us with loving attention. She and my grandpa bought a modest cabin on a little lake up north where we all squeezed in countless hours and memories. 

The porch was the gathering place where grandma was always perched, catching all the comings and goings, the fishing reports, the sunscreen applications. We played so many games at the long dining room table where grandma placed the centerpiece: a chianti straw bottle holding a taper candle. She lit it every day, letting the wax from candle after candle drip down the straw, lumpy strands of mauve and violet, sage and cream. 

It was a visual of our time together, hour after hour – a work of art that could not be rushed. Our layered family, ever expanding yet bound together. The sum, greater than the parts.

It will not make Oprah’s Favorite Things list. But it was, indeed, “life-changing,” “the best of the best.” Time together – the ultimate Christmas gift.

Christina Capecchi is a freelance writer from Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota.

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