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Gift ideas are tough to come by this year

Posted: December 16, 2012 - 1:12am

So, what are you giving for Christmas?

Seriously – I need to know. I’m stumped for gifts this year and could use some hints.

It’s probably because my family is in a transitional stage. My oldest daughter is in her own home. My middle daughter, who graduated from Valdosta State last weekend, soon will be on her own, teaching Spanish in a school north of Atlanta. And my youngest is mostly away at college.

Except for three dogs and a cat, my wife and I generally rattle around alone in the house with just occasional phone conversations with the girls, getting together at rare but marvelous times like Thanksgiving, Ellie’s graduation – or Christmas.

So here we are, just more than a week away from our next convergence, and I’m stumped. Sure, I’ve found a little something for each of them. And Ellie did email a wish-list. But the other two shrug, my wife says “I don’t know,” and I’m left bewildered.

That’s not usually the case. Maybe it’s because the looming end of the year has been a little more hectic than usual, or maybe it’s just because there seem to be too many little, unrelated things to worry about these days.

Either way, I’m hoping still to pry some gift ideas out of the four women in my life before I’m forced into the pre-wrapped gift area at Kohl’s. You know the section: it’s where bewildered men wander after giving up while agonizing over which nightgown to buy the wife – the terrific but terrifically inappropriately skimpy one that he wants, or the warm, flannel, neck-to-ankle suit of armor that she wants.

Does anyone actually buy those things? (The pre-wrapped gifts, I mean – not the nighties.) They seem to be the low-hanging fruit of thoughtless gifts – just grab it and go, like one of those grocery store bouquets of carnations ready for a quickie Valentine’s Day pickup.

I’m pretty sure I won’t be forced into that walk of shame, but it’s starting to feel desperate.

Part of the problem is this: When my daughters were younger, finding gifts was easier because we tended to their needs on a daily basis. Everything else was just a want.

Now that they’re older, their needs are new, like practical household items or professional clothes for work. Buying gifts for wants is a breeze; finding gifts for needs takes a lot of thought when you’re no longer tending to the basic needs on a regular basis.

The truth is that most of us don’t really “need” anything. Few of us are threadbare or hungry or cold. We’re long past necessities and pondering niceties. Theoretically, that means most of the items we need really are just wants – but I can’t get hints on what the girls want, much less what they think they need.

I don’t suppose it would work to wrap up lectures in thrift and charity to put under the tree. So if you’ve got any ideas, I’m all ears.

Just don’t point me to the pre-wrapped section. I’m not that desperate yet.

(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. Email barry.paschal@newstimes online.com, or call 706-868-1222. Follow at www.twitter.com/barrypaschal.)

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