‘It really is the thought that counts’
First, I must extend my heartfelt apologies to The Child for using that photo up top from a Christmas-morning-in-her-early-teens-when-she’d-dyed-her-hair-an-unfortunate-hue. But it’s the only picture I could find of her actually presenting us with Christmas Coupons. So I simply could not resist.
As for the Christmas Coupons themselves, here’s one I had the foresight to save. Too bad it has, alas, expired.
The Child came up with the idea of Christmas Coupons when she was barely able to scrawl with a Number Two pencil on lined paper. Instead of going to the Ben Franklin store to buy her Mommy a teensy vial of Evening in Paris (like I did for my mom, and which she probably still has), The Child would inscribe small bits of paper with promissory notes, usually for personal services. (Her foot rubs were in great demand, by her Dad anyway; I’ve never been able to let anyone anywhere near my feet.)
These coupons had the advantage, of course, of not requiring any money. Which, at least until she was in high school, she would have had to ask us for anyway. (Like I had to do to score my mom her Evening in Paris.) They did, however, require imagination, which she never seemed to be lacking.
They were also clever in a rather more diabolical way. See, sometimes these ‘gifts’ were promises to do things (see bed-making example above, but there was also ‘practicing the piano’) which she was supposed to be doing anyway. It would be like me making a ‘gift’ of ‘washing your clothes and folding them’, or ‘reading you a story.’ Which I guess those things are, kind of, so never mind.
It’s pretty darned disarming, too, this turning a chore into a gift. I mean, what Mom would be so heartless as to go storming into a thoughtful coupon-giving child’s bedroom ‘every morning until I’m 17 yrs. old’ waving said coupon and demanding she follow through?
Oh well, ‘it’s the thought that counts’. As they say.
Actually, this whole deal of not shopping for gifts is something The Dude and I latched onto as well. Neither one of us has ever been much of a shopper. And as for gift-wrapping? Well. The Dude would always have me wrap his gifts for him. (‘You’re so much better at it’, he would artfully plead as I would sigh in resignation.) Reader note: I feel about wrapping gifts about the same as I feel about decorating Christmas Trees. See ‘(No) Tannenbaum’ for details of bribing others with pot roast to deck my halls.
We found it much more gratifying (and vastly less exasperating) as The Child got bigger — and the need for huge piles of gifts under the Tree grew smaller — to give each other, well, experiences.
We’d wrap, like, a little picture torn from a magazine of a person skiing, and ‘give’ each other a trip to Telluride. Or maybe it would be dinner in a fancy restaurant, in which case you’d get a gift card. Or if too lazy (er, ‘pressed for time’) for even that, you could just wrap a spoon or something to represent ‘dining’. One year I wrapped a ball of yarn and told The Dude I’d knit him a sweater. (Which isn’t really an experience, but still.)
Last year it was ‘Let’s go on safari! A bird-watching safari.’ Which you can read about in hilarious summary in ‘Out of Africa, (but not out of stories)’. True, most of these experiences, unlike ‘practicing the piano’, cost money. Even the hand-knitted sweater wasn’t free. But sometimes not. ‘I’ll take you hiking every Sunday’, one of my faves, only cost someone’s time.
Speaking of money, I know some people frown upon it as a gift. But I have to tell you it does go over quite well, especially when ‘gifted’ to Young People Starting Out. Unlike a (store-bought) sweater, I’ve never heard of someone returning a check because it was ‘too big’.
But back to those ‘gifts that keep on giving’. I know it won’t surprise any of you to hear me say that the best gift The Dude and I ever gave one another was The Child. It’s been quite the experience. And yes, that gift does keep on giving — and not just at Christmas.
Have a Merry One, All. Don’t drive yourselves crazy shopping. And even if you’re ‘gifted’ a fruitcake (which I actually adore; see ‘The Fruitcake Gene’ for deets) just remember:
‘It’s the thought that counts.’
New York City. December 2016