Saturday, November 30, 2013

A Camera Bag For Christmas

The last thing I bought was a tank of gas on Wednesday. It’s Saturday now and the madness that has gripped some people still race through their veins. They must shop. It’s Christmas. The clock is ticking. They have to shop. The hopes and dreams of their loved ones depend on their sacrifice in the name of the Almighty Dollar. There are retail chains whose very lifeblood flows through the next four weeks of shopping. The country as a whole is either living or dying depending on the Shopping Season.

For Christmas at my mother’s house we draw names. Everyone buys and everyone receives one gift. Traditionally, it is something funny and fun. No one gets or gives anything that costs more than twenty-five dollars. Stunning isn’t it? What can you buy with that?

The high point of the gift giving at my mother’s house is the “Camera Bag Exchange”. Many years ago my father gave me a camera and went on a short soliloquy as to why a company would sell a camera but not supply a bag for it. My younger sister remembered this and so the next year she gave me a camera bag; it was a paper bag with “Camera Bag” written on it. It went over very well indeed. So the next year I bought one of those toy cameras for a few bucks and gave it back to her. She countered the next year with the bag and a camera given away with a magazine subscription. The next year I returned the bag to her with a very, very, very, cheap digital camera that held one photo.

This has gone on now for seven years and neither of us have put more than ten dollars a year into it.

Not only is this the high point of Christmas for my younger sister and myself, but everyone else is waiting to see who has it this year and who is getting what with it this year. It’s exciting for this sort of thing to happen because it’s pure fun. There are no moving parts. There is no warranty. Batteries not included. Just something she and I will do and we will remember it long after the other gifts have all been forgotten.

So, here’s the thing, and it’s really the only thing, are you trying to buy this sort of moment? If you put enough wrapping paper in a dumpster somewhere will someone you love be a better person for it? What’s the price on a family being together and being happy? Does there have to be some credit card company out there hitting their magic number on purchases before you and yours can rest easy?

It’s my turn this year to get the bag. It is the only gift I expect to receive that I am truly looking forward to getting. My older sister asked me yesterday, “Who has the bag?” and I told her I would have to check. I think we’ll conspire to keep it a secret and make people guess. That would be fun, too.

You could get a bag like that for free, you know. And furthermore, you couldn’t sell it on ebay for a dollar. Yet for the last seven years the “Bag Exchange” has been something we all have really enjoyed. It’s simple and it is funny.

Is your Christmas going to be like this?

Who told you it couldn’t be?

Take Care,



  1. What a great tradition. I have a similar tradition with a Christmas card. For over 40 years a buddy of mine and I have sent the same Christmas card back and forth. The card is now very worn, but it still makes the trip between Texas and Oklahoma every year. Each year we both staple a new note to the card about what has happened with our families during the year. Reading through 40 years of two families histories each Christmas is something we both look forward to. Of course, it now costs about $4 to mail it!

    1. That's the best four bucks you will spend every year, John!

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