The gift that keeps on giving


‘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.

I don't have a photo of The Child presenting me with this, but she was not a teen, and had normal-tinted hair at the time. I'm thinking maybe 8 or 9

I don’t have a photo of The Child presenting me with this. But I’m betting she was 8 or 9 at the time, with untinted hair and pretty impressive cursive

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.) 

Closeup of some coupons (for Mom). Bed-making, Picking-up-clothes-from-the-floor, maybe even a putting-dishes-in-the-sink

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. 

Small Child, huge pile of gifts

Small Child, huge pile of gifts

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.)

The Child has just presented me with a picture frame she made. Under pre-school-teacher supervision, but still

The Child has just presented me with a picture frame she made. Under pre-school-teacher supervision, of course, but who cares? And yes, it still has pride of place on a bedroom shelf

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.

An example of an actual, physical gift. He did wear these for years, though not while hiking

An example of the rare actual, physical, non-homemade gift, from me to The Dude. He did wear these for years, though not while hiking

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’.

Bigger Child, smaller tree. 'Thoughts that count' bigger than ever

Bigger Child, smaller tree. ‘Thoughts that count’ bigger than ever

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

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19 thoughts on “The gift that keeps on giving

  1. mamasick

    Your child was so clever! My ten-year-old shops at the Dollar Store for me for birthdays and Mother’s Day and they have a holiday store in his elementary school. It’s always interesting to see what he comes up with!

  2. judy robbins

    I would much rather have a coupon or experience, Alice. Like reading your blog is an experience. But if I can’t have fruitcake or a coupon, I prefer handmade. Unless it is knitted wool socks which I don’t need in this climate. Gee, I have a lot of guidelines.

    • I sure hope reading my blog is a good experience (!) Thanks ever so, Judy. Here’s wishing you the Best Christmas Ever, full of laughter, joy, and fruitcake galore. I promise not to send you socks; they are beyond my knitting ken. (Though my Mom knows how to knit them.)

      • Family Makes

        You have some great ideas here, and a wonderful family! These days, we’re so materialistic, we have every ‘item’ we probably need. Replacing ‘stuff’ with experiences (paid or otherwise) is brilliant. #WeekendBlogShare

        • Why, thank you, Family Makes (!) So nice of you to weigh in. Wishing you and yours a most wonderful Holiday Season, full of memories you can treasure waaaaay longer than ‘stuff’. xoxox

        • This is one of the lessons I wish I had learned much earlier on my parenting journey. If I had, I wouldn’t STILL have so many little bottles of nail polish and Britney Spears perfumes under the sink that is closest to my daughters’ largely unused bedrooms in our downsized retirement home. I have parted with a few, believe it or not, but I well know that my children, like your child, much prefer (and need) $.

          We’re having the reunion of our own little nuclear family, just the four of us “Fredericks of TN” after New Year’s Day when we’ll all descend on my mom, the last living grandparent, in L.A., who still, I think, would be happy just seeing her “jewels” even without their mother! I have declared that any reunion of any type of my dispersed family can be called a holiday. So, in the interest of equal time, I will wish you and yours a Happy Hanukkah (which coincidentally begins on Xmas this year) and Happy Holidays wherever and whenever you can get them.???

          • First and foremost: Happy Hanukkah to you and yours! I also declare any reunion of any type of my dispersed family a holiday. (Well put, you.) Remind me to write about ‘Veteransgiving’ some day; it was a holiday we declared one year when we all got together halfway between Veterans Day and T’giving.) I’m thinking right now about your little bottles of nail polish and Britney Spears perfume. And wishing the very BEST to you — and to all your “jewels” xoxoxoxoxo

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