Brought up to believe that the holiday present you choose tells as much about you as it does about the person receiving it, I pride myself on being a thoughtful gift giver. I can’t relate to those who breeze through a store, dividing up their friends into lavenders and pomegranates, and waltz out a few minutes later with ten cellophane-wrapped baskets. Me, I have to make sure my friends and family are in awe of how well I know how to please them.
It was a lot easier, however, before what everyone needed and what everyone wanted became one and the same. It’s not as much fun buying for the “haves and have mores.” In the old days you could surprise a friend or relative with the perfect sweater or album or bottle of Scotch and they’d be thrilled. That was before coats cost as much as couches and dolls didn’t need to be potty trained. Before Cyber Monday followed Black Friday, when, fresh off a weekend at the mall, you spend the day at the computer getting a better deal on what you might have bought in the stores. Before it became a loving gesture to exchange Botox treatments to show a special someone exactly how much you care.
This time of year forces me to become more fluent in technology, a language like geometric equations and before that, long division, I’ve always struggled to understand. Not only must I master those damn abbreviations…PSP, USB 2.0, SD/MMG, XD… but I must get over feeling that anything containing a computer chip is a “cold” offering. My daughters assure me these gadgets are among the most intimate of gifts, helping their recipients to balance and connect and fill the senses. “A sweater is like holiday fruitcake,” they say. Tech presents, they explain, require more knowledge of what the person likes, owns and wants than any gift. If you want to show someone how much time you spent thinking about them, buy them something digital, card size and wireless. Seriously.
So this is what I’ve decided on so far. I’m giving my niece in college a subscription to Lucky, the magazine about shopping. That way she can at least look at the stuff I can’t afford to buy her. My sister is getting one of those one-cup hot beverage makers because she likes to mix it up with her caffeine choices in the morning. For my aunt who is nutty about animals I got over feeling self righteous and a bit of a party pooper and found a nonprofit charity devoted to protecting wildlife. Surprisingly I found that researching exactly the right charity was as heartwarming an experience as choosing the cashmere shawl I bought for her last year. And for the few teenagers on my list, I’ll pick up some accessory that will go with a piece of equipment that’s preceded with a lower case i. Those are the easy ones. As Carl Sandberg said, “there are still miles to go before I sleep.”
I wish I could just get over myself, lose the angst, and give out gift certificates to the more difficult nearest and dearest on my list. Someone just told me there are stores that have gift registries where shoppers can pretend they are brides or babies and register for items they want other people to buy them. I think I’m going to register for someone to do the rest of my shopping.