Friday, November 23, 2012


There are plenty of things I like about Christmas.

The music.
The celebration of Jesus's coming.
The food.
The family gatherings.

But there is one thing that I very much dislike: shopping for gifts.

Or, more accurately: shopping for gifts when I have no clue what people need, and have a feeling they really don't need anything I can give them.

You are all bouncing in your seats, waving your hands, and yelling, "But Mrs. Smuckerrrr..!!"

Calm down. I know what you're thinking.  I should get creative and make stuff.  Special stuff.  Personal stuff.  Tea cozies and candles and tote bags and cookies in re-purposed tins and big stick pretzels dipped in white chocolate.

I won't have time for that unless I don't sleep for the next month.  Also, this is too much thinking for a brain so overtaxed that it forgot to invite John and Laura to the family Thanksgiving dinner, thinking they were still in Poland or something.

Thankfully someone else was on the ball and called me up.  "Um, Dorcas???"

The other day while Jenny was in choir I wandered around Walmart, picking up milk and meat but also scouting out gifts.

Clothes? How many people really want their moms to buy them clothes?

That's what I thought.

Electronics?  Tools?  There is no possible way I'll pick the right thing without being specifically told, so why not just hand them a few twenties and say, Here.  Help yourself.

Popcorn in Santa tins, cellophany pre-packaged cappuccino mixes with cups, glass jars with red candles so strongly scented of cinnamon that they set off an asthma attack.


Here's what I like:
1. When I know someone needs something and I can fill that need.  Like a gas card for your child's teacher.  Or the year Paul's sister needed a coat and we all pooled our money and Bonnie--whose taste we all trusted and who enjoys shopping--went and picked it out.
2. Words.  If I send Christmas cards, I can't sleep at night unless I include some words conveying what these people mean to us and why they're special.  I would be thrilled if everyone who normally buys me gifts would sit down and write a few pages of nice words instead.

Well, I also wouldn't mind that cute little teapot at Shoppe of Shalom, ceramic, with an infuser, or the stack of cute note papers in the third aisle.

But words would be fine too.

Today I was talking with a young person about how those first gifts after you start dating are fraught with peril and heavy with meaning.  I remember buying Paul I think two different gifts and returning both of them before I finally bought a set of James Herriot books because he likes to read.

However, he has never really liked James Herriot.

He married me anyhow. And today he went to Home Depot and used a gift card from last Christmas to buy some on-sale tools he needed, then he came home and gave me the tools and said I can wrap them up and give them to him for Christmas.

We are one couple who does not fight about finances.

The young person I spoke with, who has an actual guy in her life this Christmas, said,

Quote of the Day:
"I always thought if I was going to buy a guy clothes, it would be from a cool store, like Old Navy.  But the other day I was kind of startled to realize that if I was going to buy clothes for him that he'd like I'd probably have to go to Coastal Farms."


  1. Dorcas,
    Having never met your family and just by looking over your shoulder from all the way over here on the Atlantic side of the USofA, I've always been very impressed with husband Paul. Steady, practical. Just like using last years gift card to buy the tools. That's great stuff. But not liking James Herriott books? Is he actually pretty normal otherwise?

  2. Dorcas,
    Having only met you quite by accident when I saw you at the Denver Airport and told you I would save you a seat and we sat together and chatted on the way to Portland which was so wonderful and from reading your blog and books, I felt I know you, somewhat, but when it comes to buying gifts, I KNOW you!!! I love all those same things about Christmas, but the buying of gifts is so hard. Sometimes I come up with really great gift ideas,but, oh my!Paul's practicality cracks me up. But not liking James Herriott? Hmm... :)

  3. To clarify my feelings about the James Herriot books. I read them and I enjoy them to a certain degree, but they were never one of those books that you quote and you love and you think everyone has to read in order to be normal. I have nothing against them, they just are not my preferred style of books.


  4. Tell Paul to relax; normal has a pretty wide range. It would have to be a teeny bit nerve-wracking for your national reputation to be somewhat in the hand of your wife's pen! And to be real honest, there are some parts of the Herriott books that I don't care for; like how many "pints" it took at every turn to make the culture go 'round.

  5. Oh my. It would have been nice if I had read this in time to realize that what I wrote today was copying you.


    I love the practicality threaded all through this post!

  6. Sitting here laughing. Merle, I need to get Paul to write a post sometime on having his "national reputation be in the hands of his wife's pen." never thought of it that way before.
    And Shari, you were not copying me any more than I was copying you. We are two brave fish swimming upstream, fighting the red velvet currents.
    And a hug to you, Mary A. How often I've wished you'd show up in an airport line again.

  7. Dorcas, please tell Paul that he and I must be cut from the same cloth. I love that my wife allows me to do such things and that she also will "guide" me in the right direction. Thanks for sharing your "moments" with all of us.

  8. I love that Paul decided to comment!
    My husband is similar in the gift department.
    I came home from work to find my husband relaxing in/on bed surrounded by papers.
    He:Oh the birthday present you got me arrived today.
    Me: Good what did I get you?
    It was really nice and exactly what he wanted. I do try and buy him something and wrap it for Christmas, he knows and expects clothes but the presents he loves are the ones like this birthday present.
    I make sure that I buy sweets that he likes but major presents, I let him pick them out...after all is said and done, I don't know the correct size for that engine part!

  9. I too dislike shopping for people who have no needs or known desires. I tend to agree with my brother-in-law who last year suggested we all just exchange 20 dollar bills and be done with it!