First, this post is way off topic, but every now and then I can’t resist. Second, I know in advance it is going to get me in trouble, so let me just say – if you see yourself or your actions reflected in any of the topics discussed below, just know that I write with all the love in my heart.
I think we can all agree that some people are really good gift-givers, and others, well, not so much. Take my friend Nan, for instance. Fabulous gift-giver. She and her husband Jeff always come up with cool gifts that are just perfect. (This year they gave me a framed page from a 1979 New York Times that Nan had kept all these years. On it was an open letter from John and Yoko to their fans. I wept when I read it. Talk about a perfect gift!) Good gift giving involves thinking about the likes and dislikes of the person for whom the gift is being bought. I love it when I stumble upon a gift for someone and just know that it is exactly the thing they will love. This year was a good year for me in that regard. Sometimes a good gift has to do with remembering offhand comments friends might make, like, “I’ve always thought tie-dye t-shirts are the coolest things.” Find a great tie-dye shirt at a craft market? Bingo!
The ‘likes’ are pretty easy. Somehow, though, the not so good gift-givers seem to forget the ‘dislikes’ side of the picture. It is important to know what things your friends and family are not interested in. Even if YOU love making cross stitch coasters with little dogs on them, it is not a good idea to assume that everyone else does too. Or if you have a relative who finds cooking about as enjoyable as root canal (not that I know anyone like that) it’s probably best not to get them a fully equipped spice rack. Or a cookbook full of a years’ worth of soups (one for each Sunday!) If you have a friend who spends every Christmas surfing in Hawaii, buying them a wool sweater with Santa’s face on the front probably isn’t the ideal present.
You get the picture. Gift giving should be fun, and there is really nothing funner (more fun?) than giving a gift you know the recipient is going to love because it so completely matches up with their personality, or past-times, or passions. A great gift is all about them, not you.
Moving on. Photo cards. I love photo cards. We sent photo cards this year. What I don’t love are photo cards where the photo is of the kids and the pet. Usually a dog. Where are the parents? (My cousin Nikki and her husband Matt are excluded from this. They sent a photo card of just their dogs. Points for humor and originality) But photos that are kids only ? Don’t get me wrong, the kids are cute (as are, usually, the dogs), but Christmas is a family holiday. I want a photo of the whole family! This is especially bad if the card is from people you don’t see often. After about a month you look at the card and think, “whose kids are those again?”
And finally, each year when we open our Christmas cards, there are inevitably a few that come with typed letters, detailing the important goings on in the family sending the letter. Usually these are only good things. For instance: “Bill is LOVING his new job and is so popular that his boss has already recommended him for a promotion!” or “Young Bobby is All-American again this year and we couldn’t be prouder. 4 Big Ten schools have made scholarship offers, and his future is bright.” There is nothing wrong with this, and if you know people who aren’t on Facebook and with whom you never speak or write otherwise, I see how these letters serve the purpose of filling them in. On the other hand (and there is always another hand, isn’t there?) such letters always give me the urge to write my own, but with a slight twist. Mine might go something like this:
“Dear Friends and Family,
Well, another year has come to a close, thank goodness! We thought this one really might never end. Joshua has been trying to break the record for most dental emergencies in one year, and since it looks like universal health care will NEVER happen (because then we’d turn into Sweden) we have to pay it all out of pocket. Joy to the World!
Maya is having personal hygiene issues, even though we keep telling her that most people shower more than once a month and even use deodorant now and then… We’re hoping that if we continue to nag her and make gagging noises when she walks by, it will eventually make an impression.
Ben is FINALLY reading. I know, I know, we’re unschoolers, so what’s the big deal, right? Sure, try saying that when your six year old announces to anyone who will listen that he “doesn’t know what that sign says because I can’t read!” (especially when the sign says something like, ‘Stop’)
And as for me, well….you’ll have to ask the rest of my family about my annoying habits. I’m sure they’ll be more than happy to tell you about them.
Greetings from us all, and Thank God it’s almost 2011! Things have got to get better, right?”
To clarify, all of the ‘issues’ mentioned above are either grossly exaggerated or non-existent. Lest my family disown me…. Seriously, wouldn’t you love a letter like that, just once?
So Happy Hannukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa and New Year everyone! Remember, gift giving is not an exercise in forcing your interests on everyone else; photo cards are great if you include everyone; and if you must write a holiday letter, please humor us with some failures as well as accomplishments. It’ll make the rest of us feel better.