It's not a question I get asked every day. I pause a moment then answer, "I've read his most popular works: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Mysterious Island, From the Earth to the Moon, Journey to the Center of the Earth. Why?"
They respond, "How about the Morte d'Arthur? There's a new English translation."
Suddenly it clicks. "You're talking about getting me a Christmas present, aren't you?"
I don't want a Christmas present. My reasons:
- I don't expect to get any presents. I don't need any presents. I have enough stuff.
- I don't get other people holiday presents, except for the grab-bag at Yule rituals. Even then, after I put a gift in the grab bag I don't take one out. It becomes a special surprise for someone at Yule who forgot to bring their own grab-bag gift.
- Instead of giving other people birthday presents, if I know the address I send them birthday cards. None of this Facebook/Twitter/e-mail nonsense. I buy an actual card with a clever phrase from some underpaid writer, put it in an envelope, put on an Acorn Garden stamp, and take it to a mailbox.
- The money I might otherwise spend on presents goes to charity, not just during the holiday season, but year-round. For the most part, the charity money goes to Kiva.
I try to explain this to them. They don't really listen. "You're getting a present. What do you want?"
I struggle to come up with something. Then I remember that I gave a gift earlier that day: "How about you make a donation to your favorite charity in my name?"
"C'mon Bill. If you don't pick something, it will be Jules Verne or Morte d'Arthur."
"You do understand that I haven't gotten you anything?"
"Oh. Uh. Well, you're getting a present anyway. What is it?"
Later on, I realize I should have tossed some business to my friends, and asked for a gift certificate for a massage or hair styling. But I am flummoxed, and pick something from my Amazon Wish List: "How about Settlers of Catan?"
"Fine. And if they don't have that at Barnes and Noble, you're getting Jules Verne."
I make some more remarks about how this is not necessary. I reference The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. I am ignored.
After I got off the phone with them, a wave of Judeo-Christian guilt washes over me. My Wiccan training is helpless against it. I order something from their Amazon Wish List, with expedited delivery to make sure it gets here before Christmas.
I think I need to watch The Grinch Who Stole Christmas and the Charlie Brown Christmas Special to remind myself that this holiday is not about the friggin' presents.