My beloved cousin Elizabeth had a big milestone birthday last summer, and I just sent her a present a couple of weeks ago. She’s one of my favorite people on the planet, she has fabulous taste, and she’s not really into “stuff” — so it took me months to find something I thought she’d genuinely like and that I could afford. I bought her one of these fabulous black Chamba clay pots — it’s lovely, useful, handmade — all the kinds of things that make Elizabeth happy. Plus, it’s fun to get an unexpected present.
But I can’t exactly do that with Christmas. Christmas is in many ways about presents. And I love presents — I love thinking about what someone would really like, and finding that for them, and watching as they open something wonderful and surprising. What I don’t love are placeholder presents — those random objects we all buy at the last minute because we’ve got to buy something.
I’ve been sending food to my far-away family the last few years — I try to send cheese or hors d’oeuvres to my Mom and my Aunt Daphne and Uncle Denny — that way they can all have a little bit of me there for Christmas dinner even if I can’t be there. Or for my grandmother, who has proven for the last 30 years that it is indeed possible to live to a ripe old age eating nothing but chocolate — I make her truffles out of the darkest chocolate I can find with just a little bit of chili in them.
But there are still things that need to be purchased, and people for whom one can’t figure out what to buy. What are all of you doing to keep the madness at bay? Anyone have any useful strategies for those of us who didn’t shop all year and stash things in some closet someplace? December is here, the madness is descending even on our quiet little town, and I’m feeling the jungle drums of panic beginning to beat.