Archive for Thursday, December 4, 2008

Letter to the editor

December 4, 2008

For most people, now is an extremely busy time of the year. People are rushing about, trying to balance work, special activities, home decorating and Christmas shopping. We are bombarded with advertisements recommending a variety of gifts for all ages.

First, let me point out that I know how hectic it can be even though I wasn’t all that involved in shopping for gifts since I am shopping challenged. Early in our marriage, Jean recognized that I wasn’t the type of person to rush from store to store trying to look for a gift. The reason was very simple: I have no idea what to buy. I never felt that I was capable of choosing clothes or jewelry.

What made my life hectic was the fact that newspapers have to be published weekly and employees wanted time off. I was kept very busy making sure everything went smoothly and on schedule, which was a better use of my talents.

My assignment when it came to shopping was to run errands. If Jean found something at a store, I could be given a picture from an ad or a detailed description of the item and dispatched to pick it up. I enjoyed that assignment since I could listen to a football or basketball game on the radio as I battled through heavy traffic to get to the store and then weaved through the mass of shoppers to find the right location.

I know that I was hard to shop for, too. This was particularly true after the winter of 1988 when I quit smoking. In those “tobacco-use” days, all I wanted for Christmas was some tobacco and, if possible, a new pipe. I have always been an avid reader and have enjoyed books as gifts, too. However, it is well known that I’m a history buff, which made buying books more difficult.

A number of years ago, we came up with an idea that simplified the holidays, and, yes, birthdays, too. I would go to a bookstore and find something that I wanted. I purchased the book and gave it to Jean and it showed up wrapped and ready for me on Christmas day. Jean enjoys shopping and sometime during the latter months of the year, she finds something that she wants and I give it to her for Christmas. Early on, I wrapped her gift, but I’m not much good at that either, so she takes care of everything.

When the girls were young, Christmas was a much bigger event. We were secretive in those days, and very selective about hiding gifts. Probably one of the most unique Christmas Eves I remember was when we were in Mulvane. One of the girls wanted a bike and we purchased one from the local Gambles store. I picked it up on Christmas Eve and hid it in the newspaper office. We only lived a few blocks from downtown and at midnight, I walked down and picked up the bicycle and rode it home.

When the girls were younger and we lived in Kansas City, Kan., we got a relatively large kitchen set that, of course, had to be assembled. We started at about 10 p.m. when they went to bed and I believe that it was after 3 a.m. when we got the job done. Yes, by 6 a.m. they were up and ready to see what Santa Claus brought.

I guess I will never forget the thrill of Christmas morning when the girls were little. Their stockings were hung and the gifts magically appeared around the tree and there was unbelievable excitement as they tore open the carefully wrapped packages and discovered “exactly what they wanted.”

Christmas is different now; even our grandchildren are grown up. We have a great dinner and the son-in-laws and grandsons and I normally spend time either talking about sports or watching sports on TV. Yes, our granddaughters are also sports fans and are good athletes. As far as I’m concerned, there couldn’t be a better gift than wonderful grandchildren.

It has been interesting to me to see how holiday shopping has changed over the years, too. In the Chieftain in 1898, there were few holiday items offered for sale and homemade gifts were popular. One thing hasn’t changed, however, even in those long-ago days, there were those who were dishonest. Ed Matthews, editor of the Chieftain, lamented in his column that when he and his family were away, someone entered his home and stole his wife’s famous plum jelly, which was apparently planned to be given as gifts.

Each decade has found an increase in Christmas gift advertising and, yes, toys became more complex and more expensive. I’m not a member of the electronic age, so I have a hard time even understanding what some of the advertised items do!

But I do know that the perfect gift remains the real meaning and joy of the season. We can all give ourselves the real gift of Christmas and that would be to take the time to enjoy the music and other wonderful festivities that brighten the holiday season.

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