Every Christmas I usually have most of my presents mentally chosen whether or not I’ve hit the store. But every single year I struggle to buy my brother something that isn’t a DVD.
At 16, there’s so much he could be into, but I just have no clue other than he really likes sci-fi. I usually break down and buy a season of Stargate or similar fare that is only shown on cable – which has always been non-existent in my parents’ house.
As we’ve gotten older, Christmas, while joyous in some sense, has gradually become a let down for my mother. When we were younger we knew she felt guilty that she couldn’t offer us these elaborate gifts, like it seemed with our friends’ received. I knew though, they had fewer children and more income, it just made sense that our Christmases wouldn’t be an even match.
But as the request for bikes and toys have become fewer and fewer, the practical presents of dorm room supplies and household needs have become more abundant. In return, my parents get a, “Thanks guys, I needed that” instead of the “Wow” face.
I never really understood her disappointment until I started struggling to buy for my brother. We’ve always butted heads, but when he was little, I loved hanging out in the toy aisle and getting the temptations that someone else hadn’t splurged on. In return, I got play time making Lego castles and pretend battles of Spiderman vs. Batman in our back yard. One Christmas he received walkie-talkies and we stayed outside all day sending Morse code to each other from different sides of the house.
The slippery no-present-idea slope started few years ago when I bought him Dick Tracey for his birthday thinking it was part of the comic-book type movies he liked but didn’t own. His reaction was, “I don’t like this movie, you guys do.” It broke me. As much as we don’t get along, I thought he would have at least feigned interest. On the other hand, we’re so honest with each other that his lack of tact shouldn’t have shocked me. He deserves a present he wants. But in my own gift-buying experience, the things I choose for others are always something I would kind of want for myself.
As the holidays and birthdays have passed, I keep thinking in the back of my head that if I even choose the wrong movie, it’s not going to be OK. It would be just another reminder of how close we aren’t.
What’s funny though, is without movies, I don’t think any of my family would be as close as we are now. Christmas mornings are no longer spent trying out new toys, brushing a doll’s hair or attacking army men with the new BB gun out back. Instead, we spend our day watching movies.
We ALL get each other DVDs of some kind. For my mom, it’s Elvis and Doris Day. My dad receives Westerns and modern-day shoot-’em-ups with humor that’s bold enough to downplay poor word choice from the actors. The three of us girls receive indie flicks or classics that we’ve come to adore in the last year. And for my brother, modern-day shoot-’em-ups to sneak past my parents and anything he should watch to be cool. The past few years, we’ve caught up on our blockbusters on Christmas Day: Iron Man, Transformers, Pirates of the Caribbean 1, 5 and 12, etc.
It’s how we bond. It’s not exciting on the outside, but memories of all post-high school Christmases for me include the couch, movies, coffee and all of us wandering in and out of the kitchen to sneak ham before lunch. We don’t talk, except to make fun of the same things and rewind the parts we laughed too loud at or to catch my brother up on the plot when he says, “What just happened,” because he was too busy paying attention to the technique of the fight. It’s also the one time that we can manage to share the space on the couch and our blankets that we’ve drug into the living room before opening presents. Whenever I view the movies later, I remember my family’s reaction and their commentary. Without them, Princess Diaries 2 wouldn’t be as funny, I wouldn’t notice the volume change during the first major fight sequence in Pirates 2 to make the audience sit up, and I wouldn’t know that my dad has a secret crush on Michelle Pfeiffer.
This year, I’ve settled on a gift to accompany a big-ticket item my parents chose for my brother in an attempt to avoid purchasing yet another DVD. While I know I’m not as close to him as I am my sisters, I really hope that when he pulls out a movie he received from me, that it reminds him of watching it with all of us so it ends up being more than just a movie, but a memory.