The gifting season

Fri, 12/22/2017 - 10:30am

Here we are again at that most wonderful time of the year — Christmas!

Yup, everyone is gearing up to go out and buy gifts for kids, wives, husbands, grandkids, friends, boyfriends, and girlfriends. It’s a time when UPS and FedEx packages come flying off trucks in prodigious numbers at the docks and get fork-lifted onto the ferry. It can be hectic some days before and after the Big Day. It’s the time when folks have mental hernias trying to figure out what to buy for whomever. Some folks don’t like the holidays; some people love them. The in-your-face hard-sell commercialism of this season can ratchet up everyone’s blood pressure — if we let it. I don’t let it. As we get older, hopefully we learn to roll with this festive gifting season.

When I was a young kid, my mom used to say to me, “Joey, you never seem to ask for anything for Christmas. How come?” I’d tell her I didn’t really want anything. (The way I rolled as a kid is how I roll now. If I want something, I just make it happen and get it.) Luckily, I had my needs met as a kid: food, clothing and a roof over my head, so I figured everything after that was gravy. Wants and needs are two very different things, and somehow I figured that out as a kid. Also, giving rather than receiving always made sense to me; my dad’s way in the world taught me that. He was a giver and not a taker.

As parents we work to get our kids what they need and want. Now, a kid can be inundated by the hard sell of the season, by what they hear from their peers and what they see on the tube or computer; however, the parent must be the one to curb unrealistic expectations — wants — and this can be a tricky position to be in.  It’s okay for a kid to have unrealistic expectations, but it’s the parent who must provide boundaries; the buck stops with the parent. In the long run, it helps the kid — we learn this from the parenting gig.

I’m a granddad these days, and of course I want to give my grandkid something functional and cool for the long haul — because I’m an old school Shanty Irish Yankee. Leo Houlihan-Baskins will get all kinds of stuff this Christmas. Grandma Cindy got him all kinds of cool getups from her recent trip to India, and God knows what other swag this kid is going to get from other family members. Leo’s old grandad got him something he’ll have for a long time. I got the little dude a nice little Fender guitar. However, more important than the guitar, is how I came to get my hands on it for him. And, my daughter and son-in-law will be tasked with making sure he knows the story when he will understand its significance.

Bruce Springsteen’s former band mate and longtime friend was a guy named Danny Federici. Sadly, Danny died from melanoma. His son Jason, who is a musician, started the Danny Fund, which is a foundation for melanoma research. 

(My wife was diagnosed with this form of cancer; fortunately, we found it early.  Also, our Scottie Tuppence was found to have melanoma, and we got that early, too.) I learned about the foundation and decided to kick in some dough for this fund. One of the perks of a donation was a Fender guitar, signed by Jason and his band mates; the guitar was used for giving guitar lessons to prison inmates. My grandkid will learn about this from his parents. This guitar has a story, and I believe this will serve Leo as he grows and learns to play his guitar. Between me and my son-in-law, Jonathan, there’s a good chance he’ll be learning some chords and bashing his Fender as soon as he can work the fretboard. 

When I take off in my sailboat — I sail alone most of the time — my wife gets a little worried. She’ll say stuff like, “Be careful, don’t fall overboard.” I infer from that not to do anything stupid and get hurt, or something worse. When she goes gallivanting around the world on her travels, I’ll tell her to be careful. When she went to Turkey a few years ago, I said “Now don’t get kidnapped. Be vigilant.” We have these kinds of conversations in a matter-of-fact manner. Recently, my wife got gored by a bull while traveling around India. She dodged the Reaper. Subsequently, we both learned that although we’re getting up there in age — and have no intentions of slowing down — we should be careful while doing our hobbies.

Me and my wife gift each other by encouraging each other to do what we love to do. As a result of her ordeal, and becoming grandparents, I think we both need to ratchet up our views on safety, and not doing anything, ahem, stupid. I actually started thinking of wearing a life jacket, which I have never done while sailing. Our friend Cindy Alten-Delotto is serious ocean sailor. “Get one,” she said. Also, co-worker Bill Leddy, who was a Coast Guard helicopter pilot and rescue swimmer, suggested to my Cindy at the ferry Christmas party, that I, “Should get one.”

Perhaps Santa will be getting this Scribbler something he may not necessarily want, but will probably need.