This is the time for giving, or at least the time when you start wondering what on earth you are going to get everyone. I start my journey earlier than most, because I have to post the presents for my family. That also means that I am limited in what I get (it can’t be too heavy or too big.) So the frantic search for something good I haven’t sent before (you try to remember every present you have sent in the last twenty five years!). And then there is the wait to see if the presents actually make it on time or even make it at all (that’s only happened once, but it was so upsetting for everyone).
I had an aunty who had a knack for buying the most unusable gifts year on year (think fluorescent cushions, and dove statues) and as a child I used to dread having to smile and say how wonderful it all was. I therefore make a big effort to try to buy something people will like and every year I struggle. I know I am not the only one.
We have made the decision as a family to only buy for the kids and the grandparents (although single aunties still get them). That saved time, money and, more importantly, unwanted comparisons as to who got what from whom. It’s amazing how quickly resentment can grow out of a perceived slight in the size/worth/quality of the present.
Unfortunately, that still leaves a lot of presents to choose and get right.
And it’s not just what we are going to get for others.
Family members and friends are asking what they should get Miss Dee. The older she gets the harder it becomes. After the last request, I texted her. She came back with: “a cure for my knees.” And then shortly after, “Just kidding. Something with an owl in it or a gift voucher.” I agree with Miss Dee, the cure would have been nice.
Gift vouchers or money envelopes appear to be the perfect solution, except they seem cold and impersonal to me. If you know someone well enough to buy them a gift (with the exception of the office Kris Kringle, and even then I make the effort), then you should go to the trouble to choose something that befits the person. I must admit though, that I have given up with one of my teen nephews. I simply don’t know him well enough to choose appropriately and I rather he gets something he wants.
I’ve heard of people coming up with ideas such as a “no presents year” (there is always someone who doesn’t listen and it’s embarrassing) or donating things instead to a charity (and some people still buy presents – see previous) or pick a name out of a hat from the family group and then buy them something nice. The latter has the advantage of minimizing the cost, but still leaves the problem of choosing something (you could end up with a very large and expensive dove statue).
Miss Dee keeps on saying that is the thought that counts and she is grateful for anything she gets. Although there was that time two years ago when she got make-up from an aunty. Who gives make-up to a 12 year old? She still doesn’t wear any and her girlfriends wouldn’t dream of even getting her nail polish.
If in doubt, I ask (so does my mum and she always asks for two things in case she can’t find one of them). Sure, it’s nice to surprise people, but I would prefer to give them something they will appreciate. I was thinking of buying perfume for my sister in law, but it’s such a personal choice that I decided to ask her. Lucky I did, because she only wears the one perfume. But you could still get stuck. My mum-in-law and my husband never want anything, so I have to figure out what might work. This year I have gone for the life saver: the food basket. Of course you have to know what they like, but everyone has to eat.
I will sigh in relief once I have everyone’s presents. But I look forward to seeing their faces when they open them or, if I am not there with them, when they tell me about their reactions afterwards.
Because yes, as I buy gifts, I think about each person and what he or she means to me.
And that’s what it is all about.
You gave me your time, the most thoughtful gift of all.