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  • Marilyn Gardner Woods

Really last minute shopping...

The invitation for the dreaded gift exchange stated unisex and at the bottom in barely perceptible font size, up to $100 limit.


Yes, I am responsible for my family’s annual happening around the Christmas tree where we each draw a number out of some wonky reindeer mug which determines our spot in line. Number one is screwed and the last (which this year will be sixteen) is the big winner.



I started the tradition many years ago before babies became small tots who eventually became teenagers who couldn’t have cared less what the adults were doing as the eggnog flowed. That changed at the end of the teen years when they considered themselves not only eligible for the number lottery, but also the brandy-laced eggnog.


The trouble, at least for me, began at this point.


What I am faced with now is an assortment of ages, interests, and sizes. Plus, did I say that we are prohibited from entering a Gift Card into the fray (not creative enough thinking…). The first year one of us—I don’t remember the culprit—placed a Southwest Airlines Gift Card in a large gift box and wrapped in sparkly paper topped with a giant bow.


I need to insert here one more rule of the game. A gift can be stolen three times and then it’s retired. The fly-away present was retired in by the fourth draw. This is the only drawback to being the last person to participate.


The dilemma seems to become more super-sized each year for me as significant others and sons-in-law are added. I am beyond stymied this season.


I remember my sweet mom when she was among us—oh how she loved the festivities. Her gift each year that decade of her 80s and 90s—when she lived near us in Southern California—postage stamps. Annually, as soon as the Christmas stamps appeared, she would get in her Lincoln Continental and drive out the gate of her community in Pauma Valley fifty yards across the highway to the rural post office. This seemed to be a be a popular gift in the pre-texting era. Did we really write letters? Postcards?


What can be my postage-stamp alternative?


I could do booze—believe me, that would be a much-in-demand gift. But it’s not something I’m thinking the matriarch of the family should promote. Besides, I gave a bottle of Screwball Peanut Butter Whiskey lasts year. Fiercely fought over.

(More about this San Diego based spirit below…)


Books are often my go-to present. But lately my son-in-law has commented that he doesn’t read much anymore. How do you find books that appeal to the screen generation, Kindle users, and those like my next-door daughter-in-law who has read massive numbers of books that I might purchase.


Clothes are out. Even genderless items like beanies, mufflers, and gloves are destined for the back-of-the-bottom drawer of the dresser for those of us in Southern California who will likely enjoy 70-degree weather most of the winter months.


And items for the home? Candles? I can clearly see the young guys among us rolling their eyes should they select either tapers or multi-wick candles. Scented or not.


Cozy throws? This may be the most given gift of all our decades of this activity. I have an unending pile in my living room.



As mom and grandmother and mother-in-law, I feel like I should spend the limit. All in one gift or a combination? I did add a lush bottle of Aveda Rosemary Mint Shower Body Wash and a bottle of Flying Goose Siracha Sauce to the Screwball Peanut Butter WhiskEy*** gift bag last year, creating a liquid triptych.


Doesn’t matter how much I spend. One among us—my next-door son—will most often exceed the limit. The savvier among us have learned to watch when he arrives hoping to identify his gift, hoping it will be available when it’s our turn, and hoping it will not be stolen. He is usually quite stealthy about camouflaging his present. Occasionally, he’ll be tricky and observe the rules. Like the year he placed an ordinary package, shirt sized, at the front of the pile. His brother-in-law, Bud, couldn’t wait to nab it. When he opened it as Number Three, he discovered a packet of copy paper with a note directing the recipient out to the driveway for the rest of the case of paper.


Nobody stole this gift.

Bud hasn’t stopped complaining about the bait and switch.


My friend, Gail, offered what she claimed to be the perfect idea for my quandary—the Apple Air Tag. She has great ideas often, so I diligently researched. Apple touts it as a super easy way to keep track of your stuff. “But I don’t think my family loses a lot of stuff,” I said to which she replied, “You lost your damn purse.”


“Yes, but my phone was in the purse and if I’d had the Air Tag, it would have been in there too,” I reasoned. “Plus, it’s only twenty-nine dollars and I’d feel like a cheapskate…”


“First off,” she began emphatically, “You buy three or four. Attach one to your keys. Put one in your suitcase . . .”


I interrupted. “Suitcase?”

“Yes, in case it’s lost.”

“I’ve lost one suitcase—it went to Rome, and I went to Paris—in eight decades.”

“But you’d be able to find it if you had . . .”


She backed off eventually realizing that while she purchased half dozen for her son and his wife plus three for her husband and the same for herself, it wasn’t the solution to my draw gift problem.


I’m obsessive about reading all sorts of “best gift ideas” lists. Nothing in any of these compilations would appeal across the sex, age, and interest gap in my family.


This season I found some interesting possibilities:

  • Roverlund Out-of-Office Pet Carrier – Design forward gear for pets and their people

  • Bread Ambiance Lamps Created by Yukiko Morita—A handcrafted light made from actual baked baguettes, croissants, and dinner rolls

  • Victrola Nostalgic Wood Countertop Jukebox with Built-in Bluetooth Speaker, 50's Retro Vibe, 5 Bright Color-Changing LED Tubes, FM Radio

An enterprising recipient could always return or regift. But that’s not the point.


There is great celebrity in bringing the gift they all fight over.


 

***Just in case you become a contestant on Jeopardy anytime soon…

The difference between whiskey and whisky is simple but important: whisky usually denotes Scotch whisky and Scotch-inspired liquors, (The MaCallan Scotch Whisky) and whiskey denotes the Irish and American liquors.

And here's info on Screwball Peanut Butter Whiskey!


You're welcome.






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