Beth Jacks Column

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Gift-challenged granny faces difficult choices for seven youngsters

A gift-traumatized granny!

I hear our stores are doing pretty well in spite of the economy, thanks to dedicated Christmas shoppers. Americans are born to buy, I guess, and that’s good news for the merchants.

But a dedicated shopper, I’m not. Christmas Day is only a couple of weeks away, and I’ve hardly scratched a thing off my list. Truth is, I haven’t even made a list. I’m a complete failure at Christmas falderal. I’m unorganized and unprepared, but not untrimmed. (The house is semi-decorated, due to my annual hosting of the ladies of the church. Thank goodness for that.)

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But, hear me sigh, the big seasonal question mark, once again, is what to buy for the seven grandkids. They are just too darn smart, their hobbies are too complicated, and I know nothing about the latest whiz-bang gizmos that interest them. I could give them money, but their parents would keep most of it, and also the kids wouldn’t have anything to unwrap from granddaddy G-Man (also known as Pop) and me. That’s no fun.

You know, we kind of expect the older grandkids to mature into those gray areas where we totally lose connection with what they’re doing and thinking, but seems now even the little bitties are beyond my comprehension.

G-Man called daughter Bethany’s house a couple of weeks ago, and 6-year-old Wilkins answered the phone.

“Wilkins,” said G-Man, “this is Pop. Could I speak to your daddy?”

“This … is … not … Wilkins,” our precocious grandson droned. “This … is … an … automated … answering … machine. We … cannot … take … your … call … right … now…”

“Wilkins!” G-Man said to the imp, “C’mon. Let me speak to your daddy.”

“Sorry,” said Wilkins, “automated … answering … machines … don’t … have … a … daddy!”

And I’ve got to find a cool gift for this child? He’s six years old and he’s all into gadgets like automated answering machines?

When did I get to be so old? Today’s children live in another world – a world where Christmas lists include stuff like Mimobot USB Flash Drives, motorized vehicle erectors, iSoundz instruments, and Virtual Funkeys.

These weird items with funny names don’t know me.

I could probably make a decent stab at stuff like camcorders (point me in the right direction), digital cameras (still a mystery), personal robots (as opposed to ‘impersonal robots’?), and blasting boom boxes (the parents would kill me). And I might be able to select an iPod; I have friends who could help.

But where, I wonder, are the cool unplugged toys of yesteryear, like Lincoln Logs and paper dolls and Pick-Up Sticks? Does anybody sell Lionel trains or Tinkertoys? What about those fabulous, hand-clicked view-masters that used to take me around the world? Who ordered the demise of Chatty Cathy and Betsy Wetsy? And where are the beautiful Madam Alexander Little Women dolls? As a child, I collected them all.

And books, books, books! Now, instead of books, the kids beg for snazzy computers or anything electronic or battery powered.

This is why I’m behind with the Christmas shopping. I need a guide/translator to accompany me on a shopping trip . . . and I need a lot of cash. Things that go bzzzzzzzzzzz in the night are not cheap.

Believe me, I want our businesses to sell lots during the holiday season, but I can’t help but admire the following passage from the writings of the amazing Dr. Seuss:

“And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? … And he puzzled and puzzled ‘till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”

Reckon my seven grandkids would accept that sentiment and a $20 bill?

No, me either.