Jerry Huckaby's

--Literary Lessons--



I never met a Christmas I didn't like (though there was one in which I had a terrible cold and had to try to be merry the whole time, when I really just wanted to die), but I always have trouble with the presents. The difficulty is that you want to please people (let's leave children out of this--I'm not sure they qualify as people when it comes to Christmas presents) and yet you don't want to spend money on junk they don't want, will never use, and are embarrassed by. For instance, one of my two favorite brothers once gave me, with great enthusiasm, a device that prints your name on golf balls. Well, I don't play golf--he does, so he thought it was a terrific gift. Okay, okay--it WAS a wonderful gift, bless his heart, except that...

Part of the problem is, you really don't know what you want, yourself, if anything--you want your loved ones to TELL you what you want, and then give you a shiny version of it. Well, sure, this is asking a lot, but it does happen--just a few years ago I was given a guitar and a how-to-play-it manual! Totally unexpected. So for some six months I practiced that "parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme" song, night after night, jamming my pudgy little fingers painfully down on those frets (is that right?) until I finally just about had it--and then I could even (haltingly) begin singing along! My wife and young son told me no, all that practicing didn't bother them at all, and yes they were sure I was beginning to sound just like Simon and Garfunkle, when mysteriously the guitar vanished one night--couldn't find it anywhere. We looked all over the house. Oh, well.

Married people, on the other hand, have a gift for giving--the longer they're together, the more they know each other's wishes, desires and dreams. For instance, last year my wife got me two glass pyrex pie plates--she knew how I hated making lemon meringue pies in those tin ones--and I got her a jackhammer. Oh, you should have seen her merrily busting up the front sidewalk, and half our neighbor's, too. Yes, it was pretty expensive to replace the walks (the price of concrete!), but we were able to lease the jackhammer to CalTrans, which pretty much covered the repairs. Ha-ha--did I fool you? No, no, not about the lemon meringue pie plates, that's real--but about the jackhammer? Ha. I wonder what devil made me write that. I wonder if it speaks of a hidden fear, that if we husbands DID give our wives jackhammers, or chainsaws, etc., they just might think it the best gift they ever got! (Shudder.) Well, enough of this penny-ante psychology.

A teenage son, however, is not easily pleased--all he ever wants is $10,000 worth of the newest computer equipment, or perhaps a $30,000 slinky black evil-looking sportscar, or the moon. The underwear, T-shirts and socks we know he needs are never, in his mind, anything like a gift--and when we dutifully give them to him, he grunts and throws them aside, looking around for his "real" present. I guess what would really please him is for Bill Gates to walk in the front door and say, "Merry Christmas! MicroSoft is yours!" It's all very tricky, this gift-giving. What do you think, really, about the jackhammer--is it a good idea? Where would you get one, I wonder.

Copyright 1995 by cns news & features

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