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Boomer Grandpa: You get what you get for Christmas

December 7, 2018

Did all you grandparents and baby boomers out there receive a Christmas list from your kids or grandkids?

I received in an email an Amazon Christmas list from both my kids, which also included their spouses’ and the grandkids’ gift requests. So here’s how this list thing works now days. Using my mouse I click on those links in the email to their specific Amazon.com wish lists.

When you click on that Amazon link — BOOM — that wish list is on your computer screen. Right then and there you can then click on “Add to list” for the items. As you buy items, they drop off the list. It’s like a wedding registry. Isn’t that cool — if you like that sort of ‘no surprise’ thing on Christmas?

I do have to admit the system is remarkably convenient. As I have gotten older, I feel a little less enthused about this spotlight on gift-giving, Black Fridays or whatever special shopping day it might be.

This whole commercialization of Christmas over an entire month triggers various feelings in people. Decorating, social activities, cooking, company, church programs, increasing one’s debt are issues that can overwhelm people.

I am fortunate. My wife and I are both retired, so this hustle and bustle is less stressful. Two curious cats have presently eliminated the task of putting up a tree.

No list

Back to the Christmas lists. I did not give a list to my mom and dad in the 1950s and ’60s. There was no list. There were no requests. My wife and I do remember our two children making a list, maybe checking it twice and even writing to Santa.

Back in my day there was a delicate balance. I knew Mom and Dad had limited funds, so pushing the envelope was not the road to take. I attempted to be a good boy in December. I got what I got.

My younger sister (by 10 years) does remember circling items in the Christmas catalogs, making a list and even writing to Santa. There is no question my mom and dad were much easier and more lenient on my younger brother and sister, but I’m not bitter about this in any way. I suppose I could write a column about this, but as I said, I am not bitter about that in any way.

At this point in my life, both my wife and I would like nothing better than to put nothing on our wish list, but we understand that kids and grandkids want to give us a gift. It means something.

My list

As I was driving home from Duluth a few days ago, holiday ideas, not necessarily lists, kept popping into my head. When I got home, I wrote down these thoughts. They are a little more give than receive. Here you go:

• For a stocking stuffer, write a letter to your kids or grandkids. Tell them how much you love them and how proud you are of them. Several years ago I participated in a program at my church called “Letters from Dad.” An envelope filled with positive written words is a powerful memory. Your family members will keep this note the rest of their life.

• Play a card or board game with your grandkids. Have someone take a photo. Get it printed and give that photo to them. One of the most treasured photos I have is of grandfather and me playing a game of cribbage. I’m guessing it was around 1975. He has his bib overalls on. He has been gone for many years now, but that photo still makes me smile.

• Send some extra Christmas cards out to old friends, teammates or people who were significant to you early in your journey. Send a card, or better yet hand-deliver, a card to everyone on your block. Say hi and thank them for being good neighbors.

• If you do not regularly attend church, take an hour and attend a Christmas Eve service. You will enjoy beautiful Christmas music sung by a choir of people just like you. You may be surrounded by kindness, flickering candles, children holding onto their moms and dads, and maybe even something you can’t put your finger on. You’ll enjoy it.

• Reach out to a family member that you have not been communicating with. Send them a card — open the dialogue again.

• If you are able, give big tips to a waiter, waitress, your newspaper carrier, a barista, or your hair stylist. During December, treat retail workers with kindness. Be patient and thank them.

Those Amazon Christmas lists my kids sent me are efficient and easy. These systems help people get things done. I understand, but there’s got to be a few surprises under the tree. (Wait, I don’t have a tree.)

Sometimes I just have to go “off the grid” a little. I snub the idea to only buy “requested wish list” items.

If a gift is something someone doesn’t like, well, I’m sorry but you get what you get.

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