Help. I'm falling into the trap again – the yearly trap that turns a sensible person into someone who abandons reason and buys superfluous things.
It's called Christmas shopping.
At first, my husband and I laughed at the gadgets vying for our attention in department stores. The colorful stand-up hot dog maker, for instance, looks like a toaster but was specifically designed only to hold two hot dogs and buns.
"One would have to make a lot of hot dogs to make that worthwhile," we commented.
Pretty soon we were sucked in, perusing the houseware section with its bright colored appliances, looking for unique gifts. While there was a sea of new gadgets in appealing colors, many seemed to have such limited use.
The quesadilla maker, S'more Maker, meatball maker and electric hot chocolate maker must be designed for people with big kitchens and lots of storage space. But none could be termed "needed."
I can just hear my practical mother laughing at the thought of a meatball maker. In our family, we WERE the meatball maker.
As we looked for Christmas gifts, I was tempted at first to buy the counter top popcorn machine for my grandkids. They love popcorn and their mother refuses to allow a microwave in the house because she worries it might be "unhealthy." When they come to my house, they make bag after bag of popcorn in my microwave because it's a rare treat for them.
Perhaps, I figured, the counter top popcorn machine would be a compromise. But then I remembered another one of Andrea's caveats – she wants nothing that will clutter her countertop or cabinets.
Forget the popcorn maker and keep looking, I told myself.
Anyone who knows me understands how much I don't like Christmas shopping. Ever year it gets harder to pick worthwhile presents. That's especially true when we don't live near family members. It's hard to know what they have or what they need.
Often, when those on our gift list seems to have all the basics, we resort to gadgets. That's what brings me to trek through department stores and specialty shops, looking for something special.
I do admit there have been years I resorted to gadget buying that proved to be a great present. My mother-in-law loved the foot massager and the heat-generating back massager we bought her.
Aside from that, I can't remember when giving gadgets proved to be successful gifts. One year I bought Andrea a juicer because her husband loves my homemade lemonade. I thought she could make it for him. She said thank you. Then promptly put it out for the next yard sale.
Why? "It cluttered my cupboards with something I don't need," she said.
Do you know how hard it is to find something someone "needs?" Of course you do.
Most, but not all, of the people on my gift list no longer have unfulfilled basic needs.
The older we get, the less we need.
That's not only because we already have everything. We simply get to an age when we realize nothing that can be put in a box is meaningful.
A visit from family – that's meaningful.
Spending time with my daughters – that's meaningful.
Having a loving spouse – that's meaningful.
Having a caring friend – that's meaningful.
The rest is just window dressing.
A long time ago my mother established the pre-Christmas tradition of taking her two adult daughters and two granddaughters on a grand shopping trip. She never worried about giving us a gift we wouldn't like because she had us pick out our own gifts.
We would start early in the morning, going from store to store until we dropped from fatigue or until we each found something we wanted. Then, at the end of a long shopping day, we all went out for pizza.
Those trips were a decade ago, before my mother got Alzheimer's and passed away. But the shopping expeditions remain in our memory bank as some of our most precious memories.
Long after we have forgotten the gifts we were given, we never forget the gift of presence. I think that's true for many of us.
Whenever I asked my father what he wanted for a birthday or Christmas gift, his answer was always the same. "I just want your love," he would say. "If I have that, I don't need anything else."
But I kept trying to put love in a box and gift wrap it.
I'm still doing it for those on my Christmas list.
I'm trying to find gifts that say, "See what wonderful present I found for you because I love you."
I can't find gifts like that in a gadget section.
I can't find them anywhere except in my heart.
No wonder Christmas shopping is so hard.
I have to keep in mind the message I keep telling my family: It doesn't matter what gifts are under the Christmas tree. All that matters is who is around the tree sharing the gift of presence.
When we remember that, we can stop worrying about what we put in a box for our loved one. A year from now, they won't remember what we gave them. But they will remember the time we spent together.