and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

Barbara's Column
December #2

It's nice to know when gifts are appreciated
by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Friday, December 14, 2007

I love the Christmas-tide, and yet,
I notice this, each year I live;
I always like the gifts I get,
But how I love the gifts I give!

- Carolyn Wells

This was one of my New Year's resolutions for 2007 and beyond: no more Christmas gifts to those who never let me know that they liked the gifts I already gave them.

I figured, why waste money if they don't like what I pick? Maybe they resent my choices - they take up space or time or calorie allotments. Maybe the gift seems to assume the recipient has no taste, like, apparently, the giver.

Maybe I've offended them with the content of a book or movie. This would explain why I once not only didn't get a thank-you, but a family member stopped speaking to me altogether. Hey, I didn't even notice the language in "The Great Santini" or "The Commitments," and if I did, I'd point out that in the former, it's about a Marine and in the latter, the "F-word" sounds entirely different with a Dublin accent. The book and the movie made me laugh, and I wanted to share my delight. Sorry.

I did send my son "Michael Moore is a Big Fat Stupid White Man" by David Hardy and Jason Clarke this year, but only because he sent me "Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot" by Al Franken last year. I know he hasn't yet read my gift to him, Michael Crichton's "State of Fear," a novel meant to debunk global warming though hopefully the liberal reader doesn't notice that until he is deep into the plot.

I do recommend books in my annual newsletter to my Christmas card list, some 80 people I don't expect to see over the holidays. These books don't cost me anything if my family and friends don't want to read a warning about the biotech industry in Michael Crichton's "Next," or "The Monk and the Philosopher" in which an agnostic scientist and his Buddhist son discuss the meaning of life (sort of the way my son and I do, see above).

Actually, I have usually liked my son's gifts; even as a child, he had good taste. Though he now complains about the clutter in my house ("don't even think of dying until you get rid of this stuff"), much of it is neat stuff he gave me, starting with the grade-school art projects.

One of his best gifts was a Kahlil Gibran diary, into which I started copying favorite quotes that sometimes appear at the top of my columns. He gave me the boxed set of "Lord of the Rings." A tiny kaleidoscope. A photo of himself with a lizard tattoo on his back. His wife sent a blanket just like the one she'd cut in two for the twins. Last year, I received a clay salad bowl from Mexico. I love them all.

Yet, I don't think Lance and Mary really appreciated the porcelain Sir Lancelot that my mother and I pooled our Christmas money to buy them after they were married. I do better with the children: Aidan knew this year that I was the person to ask for a dart gun, and Maya asked me for ice cream sundaes. I often send them a box of thank-you notes, hoping they'll let people know they liked their gifts, as I was raised to do. But it doesn't take much to make a grandma happy, and I always get a thank-you phone call.

I know that people don't write thank-you notes anymore; sometimes I don't either. I'll settle for an e-mail, or just a mention sometime during the following year that a gift was enjoyed, that gift cards were used, that I didn't completely fail to please.

I always like the presents from my co-workers. My favorite from Chip Faulkner is a modern print of a wide-eyed cat that hangs in the living room; from Loretta, a stained-glass sunflower night light. But I worked with him for over 20 years before he finally mentioned that he never reads novels, including the ones I bought him. And she never said if she liked the mood-chocolates from the Norm Thompson catalog.

Lance and I remember the year my Aunt Alice sent all her family the gifts we had sent her over the years. She was clearing out her home as she got older, and thought we might enjoy the things that we'd originally liked enough to choose for her. At first our feelings were hurt, to have our gifts returned, but now I understand. When you reach a certain age, you have to start clearing out so the heirs don't have to do it; and, how nice that she remembered who gave her what. I think of her each time I notice the little blue vase I'd sent her from Mexico, the beads from Greece, the tree ornament Lance made when he was four.

I look forward to Lance and Mary returning that beautiful statue of Sir Lancelot, which of course I'll find another home for before I die.

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her column appears weekly in the Salem News and Eagle Tribune, and often in the Newburyport Times, Gloucester Times, and Lowell Sun; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in the Providence (RI) Journal and other newspapers.