We’re on the cusp of the annual appearance of some forty-six holidays celebrating whatever religious sects celebrate such things. Each of them owes an ancestral debt to the pagans, a lively group whose spiritual identity includes trees, fire, ice dancing and potato latkes. They don’t mind it at all if somebody wishes them Happy Holidays.
What all of this means at this juncture of the metaphysical confluence of improbabilities is that we’re expected to go into enough debt to satisfy our gift-giving needs. Being a small part of this capitalistic ritual, I can speak to those who may wish to give me something to celebrate in my case, Hanukkah.
I don’t really want anything. Really. Not a thing.
When senior citizens get together, we talk about our ailments, our children and grandchildren, and about how we’ve accumulated so much crap over the course of sixty or seventy years. We wonder what to do with it, other than leaving it to our children to deal with. During the next five years or so, we can probably get along with nothing more than what we already have. Our children will thank us someday.
To give or not to give, that is the question.
Speaking on behalf of seniors everywhere, I can assure you that we don’t want any sort of kitchen gadgets. We can cook for one or more with everything we already have. The last thing we need is a pasta strainer that looks like a lacrosse stick or a set of color-coordinated cutting boards.
And we don’t want another cookbook. When we want Thai food, we can go to a restaurant. Let them keep the thirty-six herbs and spices needed to create a single dish from that cuisine. There comes a point in one’s life, I’ve noticed, that the weekly menu looks pretty much like last week’s—dishes familiar enough that no written guidelines are needed.
Speaking of books… For those of us who love to read, we don’t need to be gifted with a book that might not pique our interests. A great way to gift a book lover is a gift certificate that covers the average cost of a new book ($30.00). Better yet, a gift certificate for that same amount will buy three or four books at a used bookstore. And that gift can be made really special by taking your book-loving Aunt Alice to the bookstore and then going out for a coffee. Both you and your aunt will enjoy a memorable time together.
There are so many practical gifts that appeal to us old folks: hand sanitizers and lotions come to mind. Note pads and pens, many of which can be found for free at banks and clinics. Some linen papers and envelopes for sending letters to friends and family. Boxed thank-you cards and postcards.
A book of stamps is particularly wonderful.
Gift certificates to the local movie theater are welcomed, as are tickets to the local playhouses’ productions offered by community theater groups. And don’t forget about symphony concerts. A spa day or manicure is always a thoughtful gift.
Of course, payments made to cover utility bills and cell phone charges would be more than welcomed in these hard times. A gasoline fill-up would be greatly appreciated.
Perishables are generally a bad idea, especially if the recipient lives alone and therefor has only a few days to eat the entire banana nut bread. A notable exception is a fruitcake, which is neither perishable nor an actual food item. Jars of fancy preserves or honey are nice, as are gift certificates to a nice restaurant or favorite coffee shop.
When I was a kid, it was common practice to give cartons of cigarettes to friends and relatives who smoked. Holiday-themed editions of the packaging were even printed to lend a certain festivity to the act of smoking. Ho-ho-ho.
Pets are a really bad idea when it comes to gifts.
But whatever you choose to give, make sure it is something you would want because someday it might be yours.
Photo Illustration by Courtney A. Liska
Latkes (potato pancake)
A staple in most eastern European countries, latkes are particularly popular during the Jewish holidays. Cheap and easy-to-make, we like to eat them with apple sauce and chicken soup.
2 cups grated russet potatoes, squeezed dry
2 eggs, well beaten
2 Tbs. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. Kosher salt
½ small onion, grated
Mix all ingredients well and form into 3” to 4” pancakes. Fry in vegetable shortening until brown and crisp. Drain on a rack and serve warm. Traditionally, they are served with sour cream.
Mike Dion says
One of the best. Always enjoy reading your latest. Stay well my friend.
A pedicure. Because I can’t reach my toes.
An audio book (though I hate it). Because my eyes give out.
Some canned goods to the local food bank. Because I may be hungry some day.
Some pet food to the local shelter. Because.
Something for the homeless. Because.
Help for the abused and mistreated. Because.