Sunday, December 23, 2018

Useful and Useless.

I've liked Dylan Thomas' "A Child's Christmas in Wales" since I was first exposed to it in high school. The long, stream-of-consciousness, prose poem, has so many memorable bits, from the initial run-on sentence to the closing part about saying "a few words to the close and holy darkness" before the speaker sleeps.

(I myself am partial to grumbling, "Oh, easy for Leonardo!" which was applied to paint-by-number sets in the poem, but which I more generally apply to any difficult task).

But Thomas also catalogs the Useful Presents and the Useless Presents.

Useful Presents are what they sound like: mufflers and socks, etc. Useless Presents are impractical - things that are, as this Eerdman devotional using it as a jumping-off place useless for anything BUT giving delight.

And I was thinking of lists of Useful and Useless presents.

I admit, these days, recognizing my parents' origins as Depression babies (well, the tail end of it) and their early years spent during WWII, and the fact that I am, really, no longer a child, I ask for Useful Presents:

Kitchen stuff
Cleaning stuff (I got a wool dust mop for my last birthday)
Things like sheets or small fleece blankets (though little nice blankets kind of bridge over to Useless, in a way, because they are a comfort item)
Work clothes
Things like jeans that are kind of work clothes when you are doing field work
New winter gear. (One year I got a pair of Yak Trax, which I think I've only had to use once)
Office supplies
... Other things like that. (Jewelry, which my dad is fond of giving, might fall under Useful presents, because it is more grown-up and less fun)

But what I really would like would be more Useless Presents. Some of these I can ask for and feel comfortable about:
Cookbooks (I have many I don't use a lot, but like looking at)
Mystery novels, or other entertaining novels
Cozy things, like fleece blankets or slippers or similar
Possibly nice soap
Nice foods, nice tea
Craft supplies, some times. Like fabric for a dress, or yarn for a garment
....all of those things

 But oh, there are so many Useless Presents I would *like* to have but feel funny asking for, because I'm an adult:
One of those big squishy stuffed bolster-shaped toys, either a corgi dog or a shiba dog
A big stuffed Totoro (Those are also EXPENSIVE. A lot of the anime/Ghibli themed stuff is expensive)
Something like a ball-jointed doll or another nice, poseable, larger doll that would be fun to make clothes for
maybe some nice doll clothes for the Barbies I've collected. Or one or two of the other dolls. (I keep looking for the African-American rock-climber/hiker doll that allegedly exists, but have never seen her)
Little blind-bag toys
Little sets of LED type lights, maybe battery operated. (And other blanket-fort type supplies)
a big stuffed Jinbesan
Funny little craft kits that don't really make anything all that useful
Candy, especially British or other imported candy that we don't see here.

But yeah. I don't really ask for the Useless Things, even if I want them. I admit I do wind up a tiny bit disappointed sometimes at Christmas when I get too many Useful Things, and that's why I do things like make toys over break, and why I just remind myself that when I get back home I can maybe get myself a Useless Thing or to. (And also why my Christmas present to myself tends to be Useless.)

(And an interesting observation from that devotional: a lot of the kid-presents, the ones kids give: like the handprint in plaster he refers to, are literally Useless. And maybe the parents aren't so excited to get them. But they do show one's devotion to the other....and he goes on to point out how worship and praise are fundamentally a Useless Gift, in a way, to God: they are as useful to Him as a kid's handprint in plaster-of-Paris is to an adult. And yet, still.....there is value in the giving, and perhaps, yes, even as some parents still have, many years later, that treasured handprint even though it is literally useless....perhaps yes, God treasures our fumbling and inept praise and worship, as childish as it may sometimes seem....)

1 comment:

Roger Owen Green said...

Tea is not useless!