Finding that perfect Christmas gift under your tree - Gilroy Dispatch: Columnists

Finding that perfect Christmas gift under your tree

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Posted: Tuesday, December 20, 2011 4:13 pm

You know, there are truly all kinds of Christmas presents. Sometimes the perfect gift is the kind you don't even have to wrap, which, I hope, is the kind waiting under your tree.

For Christmas this year I want what you want: no more Republican candidate debates. An end to congressional bickering in Washington. A promise by the major networks to trot out no further reality shows. Hey! It's the season of miracles, right?

But alas, I witnessed the ugly side of Christmas "gifting" the other night on TV. Young kids opened "horrible" early Christmas gifts from "Santa" while their parents, barely able to contain their stifled giggles, videotaped their precious progeny opening these "horrible" gifts. The gag was about their kid's reaction upon discovering the awful gift. It was supposed to be funny. Seriously?

Folks were invited to capture these hilarious (?) outcomes and submit them to a late-night TV show. And now, like really bad holiday fruitcakes, these video bits are seeping all over the Internet. I hope I'm not being redundant when I say, "Bah! Humbug!!"

These "horrible" set-up gifts consisted of giving, for example, a boy gift to a girl, or a girl gift to a boy. Oh, hahaha. Or rigging a gaily wrapped package with an old hammer inside. Or a partially eaten sandwich. Or an old, rotten banana. Oh, stop me, please; I'm about to bust a gut here from laughing.

I won't depress you with the "fun" reactions these darlings had upon opening their fake gift. Or the bad names kids were calling Santa - and their own parents. What I WILL tell you is that I remember a lady who taught me many moons ago the proper way to accept a gift - any gift, even a "horrible" one (such as socks). That lady was my mom.

Maybe it was because it was the '50s, and although the country was prospering, my upbringing was modest and, by golly, we appreciated every gift we got. And we said "thank you" for those gifts. Even had that gift been an old, rotten banana.

These days, we get stuck between a rock and a hard place at Christmas. Commercialism has had its way with us over the intervening decades since I was a believer in Santa. Plus we really, really love our kids and want them to have everything their little hearts desire, right? Oh, yes, I succumbed to the siren's song of "more is better" at Christmas when my daughters were growing up. And again when the grandbabies started coming.

And then I wondered ... would my kids - and theirs - remember each and every gift like I did when I was a little kid who believed Santa truly "heard" what I wanted for Christmas? Will gifts still feel so special when there is ever more and more "stuff" left under the tree?

So this year I found myself wanting to change it up a bit. And so did my daughters. We wanted to make Christmas feel magical again, but not by raining down multitudes of gifts upon the precious heads of our progeny. We started discussing "experience gifts." Spending time together, doing things as a family. Creating traditions. And lasting memories, such as this one:

Last year one of my good friends, her hubby and granddaughter found a needy family and helped make a memorable Christmas for them. Bought a tree, a stand, a few ornaments and gifts - even a gift card for the supermarket so the family could enjoy a nice Christmas dinner. Then they hauled the whole shebang to the family's cramped apartment in a not-so-great neighborhood in San Jose.

Wow - what a concept! Finding Christmas somewhere other than the mall: now maybe that's the spirit of Christmas!

So perhaps this year we can remember those ungrateful kids on TV who were taken for a fall by their very own parents because maybe, just maybe, the attitude of gratitude is a lesson that could be learned again. Even if it's for something as ordinary as a rotten, old banana.

Here's wishing that the gifts of peace, love and joy are under your tree at Christmas.

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