Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - January 10, 2020


Peppernuts, roof shingles, posters and more

It is said it is better to give than receive, but sometimes trying to figure out what to give can be difficult. Holidays and milestone events are typical gifting times. The Christmas season may be the chief time when people face the "What can I give?" dilemma.

Older recipients can make the challenge greater as most people reach an age where they are trying to downsize and donít need more "stuff" to clutter up their lives. There have been quite a few of these milestones in the family the past couple of years: brother Dave and his late wife Linda turned 70, husband Art reached 75, and brother-in-law Dave and sister-in-law Jo celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary, to name a few.

At work, I have taken on the role of event planner. At the end of the semester, there are often retirements and the associated parties present the challenge of trying to find going-away gifts befitting the retirees' years of service. A standing joke among my friends is to ask whether I will be planning my own party when I retire in May. Who knows, maybe I will have to consider what to give myself!

In situations like these, "universal" gifts, such as money or gift cards, are often selected. But those typically feel somewhat unsatisfying. On the flip side, what a great feeling it is for all involved when an item is found that the recipient really likes and somehow seems to "fit" the situation or the person. The event can then become as much fun for the giver as for the recipient.

I was pleased with what I came up with when two colleagues retired in December 2018, and I mentioned that in "Grimmy advice".

I was also happy with the outcome of a book for Art's 75th birthday in August. I solicited quotes and comments from people and gathered pictures of them with him. Art has always been good at guessing when something is afoot, so I asked daughter Katie to help. I didn't have any childhood photos of him, so she asked for photos from both of us. He thought she was doing some sort of genealogy project. After I had sent her the text and photos I had gathered, she put them together and had the book printed. Art was completely surprised.

Peppernuts are a common Christmas cookie, but there are almost as many recipes as cooks. So when Art's mom died, he figured his days of getting her version of the familiar treat were gone. But each year since, Katie has made them for him and he carefully stretches them out to last the entire year.

A Christmas tradition in our home is watching "National Lampoonís Christmas Vacation." No matter how many times I watch it, it always makes me laugh. So this year, Katie cross-stitched the Griswolds' station wagon with the tree on top accompanied by one of the memorable quotes from the movie. It was a perfect gift and makes me smile every time I see it!

Some folks might steer away from homemade gifts such as these, feeling they will be amateurish. But that can actually be a part of their charm.

Before Christmas in 2018, daughter Mariya's wife Miriam enlisted Art's help to make a lightsaber for Mariya, who is a real "Star-Wars" nerd. Part way through, Miriam wasn't happy with the results and, since time was short, she shelved the project. This past Christmas, Art was passing through the Walmart clearance section and saw a small broken lightsaber for a dollar. He bought it and fixed it, but it just had a single small red light inside. So he took the remains of the earlier project, put them in the Walmart reject, wrapped it up, and labeled it "from Miriam to Mariya." It made two gifts out of one!

Another less-than-professional-grade gift that Art loves came from his second cousin Arden. During World War II, Art's mother's family was involved with hauling thousands of crates of blueberries from Upper Michigan, a story I wrote about in "On the road to Paradise." The family's main supplier had a country store where they picked up the berries. After the war, the conservation department stopped the brush burning needed to stimulate berry growth and the business dried up. A few years ago, Arden was in the area and made husband Bob wander into the woods where the store had been located to find a suitable artifact. He came back with some roof-shingle pieces. She put them in a cheap frame and gave it to Art, who has it hanging on the wall at his work.

One of my most recent gifting efforts was for sister Gaila's 65th birthday, which is tomorrow. I pondered what to give her in recognition of this milestone. I finally decided to create a poster with a photo of her as a youngster along with news events, technological information, TV shows, movies, sports highlights, books, songs and prices of items from her birth year. Since Mariya does design work, I enlisted her help and she completed the task after I generated the text for the 11 x 17 poster. She and I have done similar posters for other family members.

Since Gaila lives in Bolivia, I mailed the poster to her daughter Larisa, who took it along when she later flew home to celebrate the holidays with her family. Gaila opened it early as Larisa wanted to see what she had been the courier for.

Gailaís response? "How special! Love it!! Love the pic! That was my cute age!!"

Yes, getting an appropriate gift is often a head scratcher. But if you get it right, the effort is worth it!


Top-left: Gloria and Katie with the "Christmas Vacation" cross-stitch; top-middle: Mariya with her "Walmart special" lightsaber. The changing of the lights and colors cannot be seen in the photo; bottom-left: the shingle gift; bottom-middle: Art with his 75th birthday book; right: Gaila's poster.



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