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Gift-giving is an art form

Dec 11, 2013 - By Chris Peck

This year, apparently, my artistic talents have failed me

The discussion at my house this week centered on Christmas gifts.

It wasn't pretty.

Giving gifts requires thought. And taste. And money.

These are Mars vs. Venus, guys vs. girls issues that aren't easily resolved by loving adult couples.

Not to self: Keep handguns safely locked in the gun cabinet.

Over the weekend my wife and I were debating the merits of various gift ideas to family member when I brought up what I thought was a brilliant idea: Get everybody one of those hats with the built-in lights in the brim!

You've probably seen them.

At first glance, they look like any other baseball-type cap.

But in a stroke of handyman genius, somebody figured out how to fit two little LED lights and a push-button on the underside of the cap's bill.

That way on a dark night you can reach up there and push a button your hat and voila! A beam of light shines down, and turns every time you swivel your head.

Good for finding a dropped nut or bolt at night. Or illuminating a dark corner of the garage. Or finding something under the seat of your car.

What a gift, right?

Wrong! Said my wife. So terribly wrong.

Her arguments:

Only dweebs wear hats with lights in the bill.

Under no circumstances would a wife or girlfriend be caught dead wearing a hat like that.

Such a hat might be grounds for breaking up on Christmas Day;

So there you have it.

A polite or not-so-polite disagreement over what makes for a good Christmas present.

This is not a new debate.

Years ago, when my grandmother from Crowheart, Ina Smith, was losing her sight, her hearing, and her ability to do much other than sit in a rocking chair, I faced this same challenge: what do you give a beloved woman in that condition?

I jokingly suggested a fur-covered cantaloupe, again to my wife.

A bit of holiday levity, in my mind.

To her, an outrage.

Can't we lighten up about this gift thing, people?

Apparently not.

And here's why. No sting quite hurts like the one that comes when everyone is watching in real time as you unwrap a bad gift.

Gosh! I love white socks!

That fake, pinched smile gives you away every time.

My other grandmother, Elvira Peck, gave me a wind-up toy when I was 12.

It still sticks in my craw that she thought that my all-grown-up 12 year-old self would like a kid's toy!

No, it's not as simple as you might think finding the just-right gifts.

You don't want to make the age-inappropriate mistakes of a too-young, or too-old gift. (No toys for teens, no fitness books for gramps.)

Heaven forbid you buy something too personal -- like underwear, perfume, or anything that looks like Santa-themed lingerie -- for somebody in the family that would be offended.

And the jury is still out, in my mind, on gifts ordered online and delivered in a brown paper box with your name printed on the label.

Yes I know it's simple, and easy, and both of my brothers will get something that way from my family this year.

But it's not the same as a hand-picked, hand-wrapped, just-right gift.

A gift from someone who knows you. Who has thought about you. And who has found something that lasts long after the wrapping paper is burned and the twinkly lights stowed.

That's an art -- even if we can't all be artists every holiday.

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