I love my parents. They are very good to me. They are generous, kind and loving. (We also have our differences, but that’s another story.) When it comes to Christmas-time, or birthday-time, it is so hard to think of something that will — well — when I think about gifts, I try to think about the person opening their gift. What’s their reaction?
“Oh, cool, thanks.”
(Pause.) (Gradual smile.) “Is this…?”
A glimpse of joy! I aim for that. So I try to think about people opening the gift. If it’s an elegant calligraphy pen set, does my sister look joyous? If it’s a smelly dead rat, does my dog look joyous? If it’s a tube of minty fresh toothpaste, does my boss look joyous?
This little exercise works pretty well for most close friends, if you have enough thinking time. At the very least, it stops you from falling into the Wishful Thinking Present Trap, where you buy a gift for someone else, but really you want it for yourself. Or the Heck I Need A Present Trap, where you feel obliged to buy a gift, even though you haven’t landed on the right idea.
However, for some people, like my parents, you can brainstorm for hours — a scarf, a book, a bionic arm, a holiday in Vanuatu, exotic plants from outer space, a new car, a new house, a surprise party with all of their friends, a tiger — and the imagined reactions are disappointing.
“Thank you, that’s very thoughtful.”
“Thank you, darling.”
“Oh dear, we can’t accept that.”
I would love to find gifts that bring them happiness, but it’s a difficult quest. In the meanwhile, I have learned there are two things that my parents will enjoy:
* Firstly, spending time with them: dinner at a restaurant, a night at the movies, a cup of tea in their kitchen, 15 minutes in the garden asking for green-thumb advice, Christmas lunch with all the family.
* Secondly, I know that it makes them happy if I find my own way; my own version of success, and happiness; if I show them that I have security, and stability, and that I’ll be okay.
But of course! What about this Christmas? I’m giving them a puppy.
Just joking. Shh, might tell you after Christmas.