28 people, 112 gifts: 1 headache

Sunday, November 16, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 3:58 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 3, 2008

It’s that time of year again. I’m up to my eyeballs with lists of things to do so that I can “enjoy” the holidays. And heading the list is shopping for gifts. I try to buy each member of the family four gifts — one nice present and three stocking stuffers. With 28 folks in this family, you do the math.

If you’ve been reading my column, you know I began shopping for presents the week after last Christmas. This worked fairly well when the grandchildren were younger because they were delighted with anything I gave them. And that’s still the case with my two 2-year-olds. I’ve never understood why parents spend more than $10 on babies who couldn’t give a whit about what’s in the package and are quite content tearing paper and eating ribbon.

The 4- and 5-year-olds also are pretty easy to shop for. I put a doll catalog in front of one granddaughter last week, and as she turned each page, she swept her hand across the four-color glossy photos and announced that she wanted everything on every page.

It gets tougher with the seven in the middle — ages 6 through 11. At this point, I have to be careful that the gift is age-appropriate and, more important, that the older ones get the “neat” gifts before the others. Example: Don’t give the 10-year-old a compact disc player until the 11-year got it the year before — I learned the hard way.

Two families have daughters 18-months apart, and both mothers had the habit of dressing their daughters alike and buying each the same gifts. I believe in individuality. Bad idea! One year I gave one of the girls a boom box and the other a keyboard. They both burst into tears.

The oldest two — one is a 14-year-old boy and the other is a 12-going-on-40 girl — are the toughest of the lot. I had a conversation with my granddaughter and it went something like this:

“Have you thought about what you want for Christmas?”


“Well, have you made a list?”

“I don’t need a list, Grammy. I know it by heart.”

“Honey, how would I know what you want if I don’t have a list?”

“All I want is a cell phone, a driver’s license and a date.” Believe me, she said this with all sincerity.

“I won’t buy you a cell phone, you have to be 16 to drive and you’re WAY too young to date.”

“That’s what Dad said. So I guess I don’t want anything for Christmas.”

The grandson wasn’t any easier.

“Have you thought about what you want for Christmas?”


One gift each grandchild receives from Grammy and Papa is a box of clothing. I realized long ago that this was really a gift for the parents, because the grandchildren usually open the box, throw the clothes to their mothers, and wait for a real present to open. I work very hard picking out clothing that is fashionable and fits. In this category, the girls are the easiest and the most fun. I try to find outfits that aren’t run-of-the-mill. But my daughters and daughters-in-law sometimes roll their eyes when the granddaughters open pleather pants and faux leopard vests. I wonder why I never see my granddaughters wearing these clothes?

The boys, quite frankly, are boring to buy clothing for. What are my options? Shirts, sweaters and pants. The trick here is to find items in colors and fabrics they will wear. I won’t buy jeans, not because they wear them every day, but because there are too many kinds and each kid has only one particular brand and style that he will wear — straight cut, boot cut, flared 550s, 560s, relaxed fit — it’s all too confusing. The boys end up with a new pair of khakis and a sweater usually in some shade of navy.

And if you think my gift buying is tough for the kiddos, the task is particularly daunting for the adults. I used to ask for lists from them, too, but I stopped when they started asking for things like paying off their mortgages and second cars — they said they were kidding, but I’ve never been too sure. So now I buy things for the adults who I know don’t have the money to buy for themselves. A new suit for a son who is a clotheshorse but now spends his hard-earned money on his wife and kids. A car TV for the family who has three kids and is going on their first vacation. And for one son-in-law, his favorite Scotch, which he says is the only thing that helps him make it through the holidays.

If you have a comment or enjoy wrapping gifts and have nothing better to do, please e-mail me at

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