One year when I was a kid, my dad bought my mom a potato chip maker that he had obviously purchased at the drug store on his way home from work just barely before Christmas. I don’t remember for certain, but I would bet that I was the one who wrapped it. I do, however, remember that we never once made potato chips.
It wasn’t my dad’s fault, really. He was a busy working guy and it was long before the Internet and prime shipping made holiday shopping easier. I don’t think he even knew how to get to a shopping mall, which was a good thing because I’ve never actually seen a dad shopping in a mall. I’m pretty sure they just hang out on the benches by the exits.
The potato chip maker was not the perfect present to give, but it begs the question, how do you choose what to give the people you love? I really don’t have the answer, but I do tend to go through these several steps when trying to figure out what I’m going to give someone. Because I do love to give gifts to people—it’s part of that unexplainable joy of the holiday season that makes me warm just to think about.
Step one: Consider what the person likes. What makes them happy? Chances are big and expensive things make them happy, so the trick is to search deep in your memory for small, everyday things that make that person smile or laugh.
Step two: Of the things that make the person happy, is there a practical gift you could give him or her that would not only satisfy but also surprise? A good gift is a special gift that shows you spent time and actual brain cells figuring out what to give that person.
Step three: Can you take that likeable, practical, special gift and take it to the next level? Can you personalize it? Can you purchase something that would allow the recipient to enjoy whatever it is even more?
Step four: If you have decided what it is you’d like to give, can you find it on sale? Chances are if you spend four hours searching online or traveling store to store, you can find that certain gift at 10% off or free shipping (if you just spend a minimum of $49!) and your time during the holidays doesn’t really matter, right?
Step five: If you can find that perfect gift and it’s on sale, double check to make sure it’s in stock.
Step six: If it’s not in stock, or on sale, try to make it yourself. Or be realistic and go back to step one.
My mom loves potato chips, like most all human beings, and if one follows those simple steps, I have to pause and wonder if that gift all those years ago just might have been better than we thought.
My dear dad, wise before his time.
Originally written 12.11.16