But How Do You Wrap It?

Despite my reputation as the Anti-Santy, I must have landed on the nice list. I got a new car for Christmas.

Nobody actually gifted me the car. My decreased bank balance and the fact that I now have a car payment for the first time in about 10 years testify to the fact that I paid for this vehicle myself. However, the circumstances surrounding its acquisition are magical enough to qualify as a gift.

When Max and I planned our move from California to Florida, we discussed what to do about our cars. We had no intention of driving across the country, so the choices seemed to be to either hiring a car transport company or selling our cars in California and buying new ones in Florida. Max’s car was fairly new, so it clearly made sense to invest in a car carrier for his. My car was in a bit of a twilight zone. It was a long way from being new, with about 75,000 miles rolling through the odometer. On the other hand, I would not have considered replacing the car if I were staying in California. Finally, I decided to go ahead and transport the car. I took a chance on longevity because the idea of selling a car as we prepared to make a life-changing move and then trying to buy a new car while simultaneously settling into a whole new world kinda sucked. The car carrier guy loaded two Hyundai sonatas on the truck in California and set off across the country to meet us in our local Florida Lowe’s parking lot to deliver our California cars.

Everything was fine for the first ten months we were in Florida. My car was in good condition and showed no signs of needing major repair or replacement. I was feeling pretty spiffy about my decision to transport it.

Then, I went into the dealer for a routine oil change service. They found a couple of things that needed fixing and the whole bill was about $400. Not great, but no big deal for a car with over 90,000 miles on it. However, what happened after the service guy gave me the news about the repairs was a big deal. Another guy asked me to come to his desk to chat. I did not realize it at the time, but he was a salesman. His job was to convince me to buy a new car rather than repair the old one. He told me that it was important to trade my old car in now while it still had less than 100,000 miles. In retrospect, I am not sure that having 92,000 miles on a car rather than 100,000 miles was going to make an enormous difference to anyone. I told the guy I was not in the market yet… that I was targeting another six months or so on that sonata. He argued that, if I were going to make a change in six months anyway, why wait when I could avoid paying for the necessary repairs on the sonata and could get a higher trade-in price. I kept saying no- I was not ready to give up my old sonata and I was not prepared to decide on a car in that moment. The sales guy kept pressuring and I finally caved. I agreed to buy a new sonata.

After the sales agreement, of course, came an equally high-pressure pitch from the accessories guy. I ended up spending even more money on extras that I was not convinced I needed. By this point, I was feeling aggravated and hangry. I had been at the dealership all morning and it was long past time for a snack. Instead of feeling happy and excited about getting a new car, I felt a hot, seething resentment over a sense I was getting duped.

But wait… there’s more. After all that, they sent me to the finance guy. I balked at this because I was paying cash for the vehicle. I did not understand why I had to see the finance guy. Turns out the finance guy is also the warranty guy. One aspect of the whole experience was the salespeople trying to “blind me with numbers.” They produced inexplicable numbers that would demonstrate why I should buy what they were selling. I could not back into these numbers, no matter how I worked my calculator. The warranty guy was the worst of a bad bunch. He kept trying to tell me how much money I would save by purchasing different warranty packages. I could not, for the life of me, understand where he was getting his figures.

By that time, I was digging my heels in and kept saying “no” to every option he produced. He became increasingly belligerent and demeaning. I kept telling him that I was going to leave, but that was an empty threat because the service department still had my old car. He kept coming back with how illogical and short-sighted I was for not agreeing to “protect my investment.” He kept saying that I must not understand because if I understood the benefits, I would absolutely agree to add a few thousand dollars to my rapidly expanding total. I kept saying that, if the cars at this dealership were so unreliable that I was going to truly need the extent of repairs he was proposing, then maybe I should not be buying one. I could not get him to just shut up and stop badgering me. The phrase “held against my will” occurred to me more than once. My blood sugar was low, this guy was belittling me, I could not easily escape, and I knew I was being bamboozled.

Still, I finally succumbed and bought the cheapest package he was pushing because I could not stand the pressure anymore. I was almost in tears and saw no other way out of that little room except to sign on the dotted line. I left with a new red sonata, but also with a heavy load of resentment. I could never quite warm up to that car. It was a fine car and served me well, but I just never enjoyed it because of the sour experience I had purchasing it.

That resentment kicked up a notch when the next model year rolled around. That year, Hyundai introduced the Kona- a compact SUV that came in many vibrant colors. It was a cute, kicky little vehicle that appealed to me. What appealed to me the most was that the highest “trim” level of the Kona (read, most expensive, extra-loaded version) came in a lime green color that radiated Tinker Bell vibes. I have never bought a car that was anything but a stripped-down base model. I would have ponied up the extra money and bought this “limited edition” trim model just to get that color. However, I wasn’t getting anything because that sales guy pushed me into buying a car before I was ready. With a sonata that was eight months old, I was certainly not in the market for a new vehicle.

I lived in hope that, by the time I was ready to buy a new car, Hyundai would still be offering that Tinker Bell green Kona. Every time I saw one on the road or in a parking lot, I would make a mental note. I planned to buy a new car in 2022, so I kept my fingers crossed.

Alas, when the 2021 model year arrived, Hyundai discontinued my Tinker Bell green color. I began mourning the death of my dream. I consoled myself with a reminder that I had never actually driven the Kona. Maybe I would have hated it. Maybe not.

When 2022 arrived, the world looked vastly different than it had in 2015. We had survived a worldwide pandemic. Russia and Ukraine were at war. Supply chains which had functioned effectively for years suddenly fell apart. Car prices, both new and used, escalated. I decided it was not the best time to buy a car, especially since the car color of my dreams was no longer available. I thought I’d wait at least for the 2023s to come out before I took the plunge. I believed that, if I clapped hard enough, Tinker Bell green might come back to life.

When the 2023s came in, there were still no green Konas. To pile on the disappointments, the problematic supply chain issues had prompted Hyundai to limit the number of color choices on the sonatas to boring black, lackluster white, ghostly grey, and rerun red. The car I purchased (uh… had forced upon me) was still going strong and I decided I’d keep waiting.

A couple of weeks before Christmas, as I was driving past the dealership, I noticed a lime green Kona on the lot. I felt wistful but dismissed the idea of purchasing it because I knew it could not be newer than a 2020 model and I didn’t life the idea of taking on the potential pitfalls of a used car. A couple of days later, I saw it again. After spotting it several times, I finally decided to check the dealer’s inventory to see what was up.

It was a 2020 model…. BUT… it had only 3200 miles on it. Yes, thirty-two HUNDRED. Suddenly, a door opened in my mind, and it was a Tinker Bell green door. I called John, the sales guy who sold Max his last car, which was a much better experience than mine. I explained my story to him, and he felt this car would be a good fit for me. Not wanting to waste my time (well, that’s refreshing!), he told me he would check with the lot manager just to make sure the car had not sold yet. He called me back a little bit later to tell me that, sadly, the Tinker Bell green Kona had sold. He even walked the lot himself to make sure. I was sad, but we agreed to keep in touch as I would eventually have to buy a car, even if it was a car the color of doldrums.

The next day, Max and I passed the car dealership again. There, in the second row from the street, was a Tinker Bell green car. I knew it might not be the same car. Still, I could not get it out of my head. When we finished running our errand, I stopped at the dealership and pulled up behind the car. It was the 2020 Kona. I looked at the invoice in the window and it showed 3200 miles! I called John and explained I was standing right behind the Tinker Bell green Kona.

John came out to meet us. He was extremely apologetic and embarrassed that he had missed the car. He had walked the back lot but had not thought about the cars right in full view. I drove the Kona. I loved it. There was a bonus. The interior was black leather, with TINKER BELL GREEN TRIM! It was all extremely exciting. I did not get a greatly reduced price compared to a new sonata or basic Kona, even though it was technically a used car, because it was that extra-laden special limited trim. Although the practical part of me (and I do have one) objected, I have to say I didn’t even mind. I decided that I get to be extra-laden this time. There are people who say I am pretty extra most of the time.

I went home with my dream car. I get happy every time I walk out into the garage and see it in all its shiny greenness. There was definitely some pixie dusting going on to get me that car.

Sometimes, a gift is not a thing. Sometimes, the gift is just an opportunity.

What was your favorite gift this holiday? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.


The Tinkmobile exterior


There is a rumor going around town that I am opposed to Santy Claus. I am the Anti-Claus if you believe the hot gossip. Nothing could be further from the truth. The people who believe this rumor clearly do not know me. As I have said in the past, I forced myself to believe that Santa visited on Christmas Eve with a sleigh full of presents until I was at least eleven. Few 63-year-olds play Elf on the Shelf every morning in December. I do. If there is no Santa Claus, is there really any point in hunting for an elf? I mean, if there is no Santa, from whenst would the elf have come? My personal elf, Kringle, knows his stuff and he tells me that he has a direct line to Santa, so I had better be good.

There is a story behind why some people think I am anti-Santa, but the why is somewhat irrelevant. The point is that the episode that gave rise to this mistaken belief has caused me to consider my own position on the matter.

I shared in prior Christmas-related blogs that I have a bifurcated view of Christmas. There is the sacred, faith-centered celebration of the incarnation when God entered the world fully human as well as fully divine in order to reconcile His people to Himself. While we recognize that Jesus probably was not born on the date we celebrate Christmas, we have identified the date to celebrate that He was, indeed, born to save us. The date is not important; the celebration and worship of Christ is.

There is also a secular celebration of Christmas that has a loose, diaphanous connection with the faith-centered celebration. It is a celebration of love and family and giving and magical story-telling that happened to intersect with the celebration of Jesus’ birth. We certainly see these lovely, sweet concepts in Christianity, but we believe that Jesus’ incarnation means something much, much more important. The notions of love, family, giving, the magic of storytelling also exist in the humanist world. Whatever a person’s world view, whatever their faith, whatever their philosophy- that person probably embraces the benefits of these notions.

The secular celebration evolved and endured even after the world culture started to grow away from Christianity. Some people who do not identify as Christians or churchgoers may still somewhat vaguely accept that the “true meaning of Christmas” is that the baby Jesus was born in a manger in Bethlehem. For other people, the connection between their secular Christmas tradition with Jesus may be as tentative as believing that the birth of Jesus is simply the origin story of a probable myth. Other people who do not believe in Jesus at all may also embrace the secular tradition of Christmas.

Many Christians try to amalgamate the sacred and secular views of Christmas into one, big, eclectic “Santa Claus kneeling beside the baby Jesus in the manger.” There is nothing wrong with that, but I find I cannot quite reconcile the two types of Christmases enough to combine them in my brain. I find it easier to honor the true meaning of Christmas for me if I focus on the fact that there are actually two celebrations on December 25- the celebration of the Incarnation and the celebration of a cultural Christmas.

People tell me that Santa Claus is an effective way to introduce children to the concept of giving. They say that we have Santa who gives gifts because the Three Wise Men brought gifts to the baby Jesus, who brought us the greatest gift of all- salvation. They say children relate to Santa.

I do not argue against that notion. There are plenty of opportunities for children to relate to Santa and for parents to teach the lesson of Christmas giving. I can even understand that we can get to Jesus using Santa as a starting place. I certainly do not argue against the fact that children relate to Santa.

I simply suggest that, in a Christian church, it makes sense that children also relate to Jesus. If there is anywhere where Santa should step aside for Jesus, it would be at church activities.

In my household, you will find three smiling Santa Claus figures. There are, however, at least 10 Nativity sets. While one Santa and one Nativity is probably sufficient for a 1500 square foot house, I like to think that my ratio of Santa and Nativity sets represents the focus of the relative celebrations. I relish hunting for Kringle each morning. I have been known to sit on Santa’s lap as an adult. I enjoy the beautiful lights and secular decorations. I like the funny Christmas t-shirts. I rock around the Christmas tree with the best of them. However, nothing can match the sheer joy and peace I get out of celebrating Jesus’ birth. My favorite Christmas songs are hymns. I light the candles on my Advent wreath every night and pray our daily devotional. My favorite holiday activities revolve around worshiping with my brothers and sisters in the faith.

Yes, I definitely enjoy the secular celebration- the term “giddy” comes to mind when I think about describing my cultural Christmas experience. So, I am not anti-Santa. However, as lovely as giddy is, I would rather feel joy and peace than giddy.

I have more Nativity sets than Santas beclaus Santa is with us for a season and Jesus is with us forever. I have more Nativity sets than Santas beclaus I think the story should start with Jesus and only then continue with the Santa tradition rather than starting with Santa and working our way back to Jesus. I have more Nativity sets than Santas beclaus Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega, while Santa is just something fun to brighten the time in between, like Yahtzee and golf. I have more Nativity sets than Santas because Santa makes me jolly, and Jesus makes my joyful.

I have more Nativity sets than Santas just beclaus.

Those of you who follow along with my journey know that it is unusual for me to skip posting for two weeks in a row. I have been missing in action from the blogosphere the last couple of Wednesdays. I have been working on this piece for several weeks and have been a bit stuck. Even in reading it now, I am not sure about it. Maybe I am just an old curmudgeon. I’d love your feedback. Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Merry Christmas!

Terri/Dorry 😊