Present tense

It was my Dad’s birthday a couple of weeks ago, and after some thought and some time on the Amazon website I decided to buy him the History of the World in 100 Objects book; I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the radio series (via podcast, which I listen to while looking at a photo of the object in question on the website) and knew my Dad would like it too. And I was right – the book was so very much his cup of tea that my sister had already given it to him for Christmas.

Oh, and his other two birthday presents – from my Mum and my sister – were identical to each other.

This happens quite a lot in my family: my Mum and my sister have given me the same book, a year or so apart; and one Christmas my parents bought each other the same book, which caused a lot of amusement when they unwrapped their gifts simultaneously. I’ve always taken this phenomenon to mean that we just know each other very well and have similar tastes, but lately I’ve been wondering if it doesn’t signify a general lack of creativity in the gift ideas department.

Finding creative and thoughtful presents for people I’ve known for multiple birthdays and Christmases is almost as difficult as coming up with good topics for posts after six years of blogging. Strangely enough, though, I’ve started having the same problem with people I haven’t known for very long at all – possibly because even if I haven’t given that particular person a book or some nice earrings or concert tickets or a spa gift certificate before, I’ve given so many books and nice pairs of earrings and concert tickets and spa gift certificates to other people over the years that it just feels like it’s been done and I’m being boring.

(Kids are the exception. Buying for kids is always AWESOME. I may or may not have once bought one of our nephews a marble run game just because I wanted to play with it. And a suspicious amount of very cool Lego has been purchased over the last few years. Don’t judge me!)

As a recipient, though, I really don’t mind getting the same kinds of gift every year – I’m thrilled to receive as many books, pairs of socks, fancy soaps, earrings, gift certificates, and fancy food items as people want to give me. Especially books – I’d rather have the occasional duplication than have no-one ever buy me books again. I’d prefer it if my Mum would stop buying me clothes, but that’s not going to happen and it’s no great hardship to have a few items set aside for “Sunday Skyping only”.

So, while I’ll continue to try and think of new, exciting, and creative ideas (suggestions in the comments, please!), I guess I’ll also try to feel better about the times when inspiration doesn’t strike… like with my Dad’s replacement gift: A History of the World in Twelve Maps. (Oooooh, I’m so very original). I’ll feel especially good about these times if the non-creative ideas come with one-click buying and free shipping!

About Cath@VWXYNot?

"one of the sillier science bloggers [...] I thought I should give a warning to the more staid members of the community." - Bob O'Hara, December 2010
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9 Responses to Present tense

  1. Nina says:

    I was at a birthday party last week and my friend had requested “an organic or sustainable present”. To be honest, with being homeless and moving from one place to the other and getting sorted in the NL again, I just hadn’t had the time to look for a present. But I told her “the most organic and sustainable present is no present at all”, which she took as a great truth. (it was also the first time in 8 years I was at her party so that earned me good points)

  2. Alyssa says:

    I find parents the hardest when it comes to gifts, since they either already have everything or have the means to get what they want then the mood strikes. My fallback is theatre or symphony tickets, books, jewelry, cool kitchen gadgets/ware (like a one-of-a-kind wooden cheese serving tray I got my mom last year), and gift cards of course!

    I also love buying for kids – so much more fun!

  3. cromercrox says:

    I’ve enjoyed those few episodes of A History of the World in 100 Objects I’ve managed to catch in the car. The book must be terrific. I love the idea of using a mute artefact or a tiny scrap of something to tell a much wider tale. It’s a device I’ve seen in two very different items of fiction I’ve enjoyed: Exodus by Leon Uris, and Accordion Crimes by Annie Proulx.

    My kid sister was and is a genius at finding presents. She used to haunt all kinds of tacky novelty shops in search of just the right gewgaw. When we were kids she got a lovely present for our Dad. It was a small box on which was printed ‘For The Man Who Has Everything’. Inside was a button-badge that read ‘I’ve Got Everything’.

    • Bob O'H says:

      I thought the best present for the man who has everything was a strong course of antibiotics.

  4. chall says:

    My mother wants donations to Doctors without borders or (like I gave her last time) “self help for women literacy projects” or similar charity through confirmed sources. I guess that is like the “no stuff but something in my name?” Dad still likes books but they tend to trickle down to me 🙂

    As for friends and other family, I’ve tried to get something good but it’s getting harder each year. I’ve started to do more of the “charity” and some “home made photos/memories” but that too gets old I guess…. need more ideas.

    “Sunday Skyping only” – LOVE THIS! It’s like “Sunday dinner clothes” but for us across the world. I need to skype more regularly, have been more like once a month lately (every three weeks?) but should get back to more often.

    Happy Midsummers by the way!! (big celebration in Sweden today 🙂 )

  5. I think everything you said about having trouble finding original presents and writing original blog posts also applies to blog comments.

    I’ll probably say the same thing on your next post, too.

  6. Cath@VWXYNot? says:

    Nina, I like the way you think! Glad your friend was OK with it 🙂

    Alyssa, yes, parents are difficult. Mine already have everything they need, including membership / subscription to all local theatres and cinemas… gift cards aren’t really “done” in my family (which is a shame because I love receiving them!), but I have given my Mum spa gift certificates and the like. Last year my sister and I went in together and got them an iPad for their combined Christmas and birthday presents, which was a popular move, and I once got them a weekend stay in a lovely country hotel about 2 hours drive away, which they liked a lot. Maybe I should just do the same thing every year and have done with it!

    Cromercrox, yes, it’s a great concept and I will definitely add those two books to my list. The last Annie Proulx book I read (Postcards) was beautifully written, but bleak and depressing as hell, but The Shipping News is one of my all-time favourites so I need to give her another shot I think!

    Chall, Happy Midsummer’s! I love the charity gift idea, but again it’s just something that “isn’t done” in my family. Not that they don’t approve of the concept, but the exchange of actual physical objects is A Big Deal in my family – no cash, no gift cards etc.

    Richard, I hear ya…

  7. Beth says:

    For geeky friends, I like things from Thinkgeek (though they always kill you with the taxes due on delivery) and The Unemployed Philosopher’s Guild, though I’ve recently discovered that the bookstore at SFU’s Surrey campus carries some of the items you can find on the latter. I’ve also been recently told about a fun gift store near Sapperton Station (the name of which escapes me at the moment), so once I check that out I’ll be sure to report back!

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