"But," the great Master said, "I gave a various gift to each, to charm, to strengthen, and to teach."
- Henry W. Longfellow
How else do you begin a December conversation with a child but ask what he or she wants for Christmas? How else do the 'do-you-qualify-for-a-senior-discount' crowd realize how far removed we are from our own childhood Christmases than to hear the "I-wanna" answers given by todays younger set?
"Well, Michael, what do you hope is under your tree this Christmas?"
The third-graders eyes shone like headlights as he replied, "An 18-speed bike."
Eighteen speeds for a 9-year-old, on a vehicle that goes 20-25 miles an hour max? How many speeds will there be on his first car?
Such technical sophistication is hard to fathom if, like me, you gave up bike-riding when one-speeds gave way to three, because you never could get the hang of hand brakes after growing up slamming the pedals in reverse to stop.
Generation slammed into generation as the thought of Michael's hot-rod two-wheeler reminded me of the poster I had just seen at the Family Y: Life is like a 10-speed bicycle. (See, even the poster is out-dated.) Most of us have gears we never use.
'Tis the season to be giving - and hoping the gifts we buy will dilate the eyes of the receivers on our list, too. And if you need help choosing just such a gift, there's no end to the places you can go for help. One source I checked recently gave these tips for that proverbial friend who "has everything":
For the person who needs to be impressed: a $275, seven-foot scarf;
For the chocolate lover: chocolate soap with an aroma stays with you all day long, only $7 each;
And for the really hard to please: $600-boots, a $1,200-martini glass (singular), or a $135-cashmere bra.
If these suggestions are insufficient, and you are still clueless after reading the thousands of catalogs and brochures you've already received in the mail, you could check some 8,000 sites (and growing) on the Internet.
With all this help, you can no longer say you've run out of ideas for what to give anyone on your gift list. Running out of money is another story.
Speaking of money, someone has tallied the gifts "my true love gave to me" during those "12 Days of Christmas," and discovered Mr. T.L. was one mighty generous fellow. All those partridges, pipers, doves, and drummers, etc. cost almost $50,000. Then, after all that gallantry and expense, what happens if m'lady doesn't like her gifts? In his spoof, "The 12 Days After Christmas," Frederick Silver imagines the following:
"The first day after Christmas my true love and I had a fight, and so I chopped that pear tree down and burned it just for spite..." Then, with a single cartridge she shoots the blasted partridge, turns the three French hens into chicken soup, returns the "five gooooold rings" because they turned her fingers green, and ships the other gifts back collect. It sounds like that relationship may have fallen a little short of true love.
Like Silver's "m'lady" and our speedy cyclist, most of us receive gifts and contraptions we never use. Still, we drop hints about what we would like to receive, and quiz our loved ones to find out what they want from us. Then, after Christmas, we smile if we can't stand Aunt Delia's ceramic pig and thank her anyway, because we've learned that things are never as important as the ones we love.
Christmas is a good opportunity to cement that giving - and receiving - philosophy.
(Barbara Seaborn is a local freelance writer. E-mail comments to seabara at aol.com.)
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