The View From Faraway Farm: Give it a little thought
I truly enjoy the whole process of gift giving. I don't always get it right, but I do put some effort into it. When I don't get it right no one ever lets me forget it. In the course of just a few years, I purchased the same exact stuffed penguin for one of my daughters. That slip of the memory has now become a family screw-up legend. One daughter loves to collect all things elephant, the other, all things penguin. There seemed, at the time, to be more elephant themed items for sale in gift shops than penguin items, so hey, the choices were limited. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it. Repeated gifts aside, I've hit a few home runs over the years.
Grandchildren present a whole new level of gift selection challenge. I've learned one thing, electronics are always a hit. Even though she is only 5, my one and only granddaughter is a gadget freak, especially electronic gadgets. The kid is so facile with devices that it is frightening. If we don't stow away our Kindles, Miss Juli (pronounced "Hoolie") can virtually download games and other stuff that junks up our reading devices within seconds. Same thing with smartphones. She doesn't just punch in randomness, it always has a purpose designed for her personal entertainment. I risked getting sideways with her parents, but I thought the best solution to the issue was to get her a tablet of her own. All that accomplished was to make her faster and more accurate with her tablet meddling. We still have to hide them when she comes to visit, and now it is even more important to get them stowed than ever. If we do end up having to wrest a tablet from her speedy little hands she does take it well, no pitching a fit. Small victories.
Each year I try to get my son-in-laws some useful gifts. One year I saw a set of screwdrivers with a bunch of specialized tips for today's fasteners. I bought three sets, one for me of course. I know they won't get this sort of thing for themselves, so I can pretty much count on them appreciating the thought when they are in the midst of an assembly project. One year I found a huge antique bottle at an antique place in Townshend and got it for one of the son-in-laws. He was into brewing his own craft beers at the time and he found it very useful. Sometimes you get it right.
I'm a big proponent of personal safety gadgets, so I will buy multiples to not only attempt being equitable about gift giving but also making sure everyone gets the same safety benefits. When I first started doing this sort of thing I got some quizzical looks, but now they know it's just Dad being Dad. At least I put my money where my heart is, and I'm glad that they understand.
The process of family gift giving begins with research, knowing your recipient, and taking advantage of getting items when you see them, not waiting for a later date and hoping that you actually remember those brilliant ideas. I haven't always done it that way, but the older I get the more I try to do it that way. I generally hide all these items on my side of our large walk-in closet. I keep a lot of interesting stuff in there, and where's the first place the grandkids go to when they come to visit? The closet. It seems like chasing them out of the closet and keeping them away from our Kindles is the main job when they come to visit, so I make sure to get them "distraction gifts."
One of my favorite sources for distraction gifts is American Science and Surplus, or Toy City in Keene, N.H. Either one of these retailers can keep me fascinated and keep the grandkids from snooping where they don't belong. I found some potato guns that offer hours of fun. You jam the barrel into a raw potato, twist it away from the potato and now the barrel is filled with a slug of spud. Cock the spring-loaded mechanism and your loaded and ready to shoot a hunk of tater about five or six feet. Good clean fun if not a bit wasteful, but better than having four or five grandkids sitting around silently inside while occupied with the electronic devices that I gave them. Enjoy your holiday gift shopping!
Arlo Mudgett's Morning Almanac has been heard over multiple radio stations in Vermont for nearly 30 years, and can be tuned in at 92.7 WKVT Monday through Saturday mornings at 8:35 a.m. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of the Brattleboro Reformer.
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.