Thanksgiving doesn’t even officially end before Black Friday begins this year. Wal-Mart is staying open on Thursday in hopes of preventing shoppers from crushing each other to death as they storm through the doors on Friday morning. The adrenaline rush of beating other shoppers to the one-day-a-year bargains must be addictive. A couple we know spend Thanksgiving with an aunt in southern California each year. Their family tradition includes dividing into teams and spending Friday dashing from mall to mall pursuing hot sales. Auntie peruses the newspaper ads, makes an assignment list for each team, checks to see that gas tanks are full, and awakens everyone a few hours after midnight to start the predawn marathon.
When we had a large family and small budget, I joined the post-Thanksgiving crowd and enjoyed the competition. Shopping for grandkids still satisfies my materialist instinct, but shopping for adults who have discretionary income is about as much fun as giving a cat a pedicure. Anything our kids want or need, that we can afford, they already have. And money and gift certificates are so impersonal. I covet the talents of handy people who create thoughtful, handmade gifts. My cousin Krafti made quilts for each member of her extended family last Christmas. She started in September and made 26—including one for a daughter’s significant other that she wishes would drop dead.
Nobody wants a gift I might stitch up. Even a fancy, computerized sewing machine would not help. I’d probably just stitch my thumb to my index finger and go around with my middle finger sticking straight up.
My biggest gift problem is my sister-in-law, Kato, who makes and sells jewelry for a living. I love receiving original silver earrings for gifts, but how to reciprocate? To add to the misery, her and my brother’s birthdays are in December. I have to think up two gifts for each of them in the same month. Two weeks ago I sent them an e-mail suggesting that we forego Christmas gift giving this year and donate to the needy instead. I have received no answer. Maybe my problem is solved.
This year I’ve decided to forget about trying to please people who have everything and buy what I enjoy. I love buying books, plants and groceries. They come in every size and I don’t have to try them on. Now, plants and groceries don’t really work as Christmas gifts but books are fun to buy— and I’m supporting the hard-pressed publishing industry. My Christmas shopping dilemma is solved—unless Santa fills stockings with Kindles this year.