Have you done your Christmas shopping? I tend to do mine very late, often the week before Christmas.
I have to admit that I’ve been a bad gift-giver through the years. When I was growing up and even into my 20s, the gifts I bought for my family were pretty cheesy. They were usually presents that I thought were funny, not necessarily something my family members wanted. For instance, I bought a lot of “as seen on TV” gifts like the “Snuggie,” a wearable blanket that I’m pretty sure my mom never used.
One year in college, I decided that I should give meaningful gifts, and not ones that were amusing to me. The gifts that I really treasure are the ones that the giver put a lot of thought into, maybe a gift they made at home. I asked myself, “What could I make to show my family I love them?” The question stumped me at first, because I’m not an artistic person. I’m not exactly a Picasso with the paint brush, so unless my family appreciated stick-figures, that wasn’t going to happen. My last shop class was freshman year of high school, so anything related to carpentry was out of the question.
“Do I know how to make anything?” I wondered.
After pondering it for some time, I hit upon an idea. I may not have a wide variety of skills, but one skill I knew I had was that I could make my family members laugh. But how do I convert that skill into a Christmas gift? I had some experience writing, so I thought maybe I could write them a funny story. I was already doing that sort of thing in the Christmas letter we sent out, where my sisters and I each wrote a paragraph about what we were doing in school. My section of the letter was always silly and contained a mixture of facts and fairy tales about my exploits in band or the golf team.
Writing stories for each family member was a decent idea, but I wanted to do something they would remember for a long time. It couldn’t just be any story. It had to be presented in a special way, and that’s when I settled upon writing personalized poems. Once I landed on that idea, I got to work writing rough drafts. I probably spent as much time on those poems as I did studying for finals.
Those poems were so much fun to write. The one for my sister Julie was about her participation in drill team and music. The one for my sister Mary was about softball and mock trial. My mom’s touched on her work as an attorney and as the church choir director. My dad’s was about his love of bridge. I don’t think I’ve ever been more proud than that Christmas morning when I got to give those poems to my family.
I can’t say that I’ve been as thoughtful every year since then. Being married to my wife, Taniya, has made me more conscientious of the gifts I give. She’s great at giving gifts. She can remember a conversation from months earlier where a friend mentioned they liked birds, and she will get them a bird-themed gift. Like I mentioned, I have a bad habit of waiting until the last minute to get a gift. Taniya gave me a birthday gift that she bought when we were in Los Angeles four months earlier. I never think four months ahead! But now I’m trying.