I love my mom. I love my mom. I love my mom. (repeat)
My mom is a great gift giver. My family is not a pop-music family. We listen to Mozart, Chopin, and the Beatles. duing high school I mentioned at some point that I like the Ben Folds Five Song “Brick” (Being my 16 year old self the sentence was probably “There’s this song Brick that’s cool and fun. And anyway, then I went to this party and James was there and I didn’t drink or anything I promise…”)
From a half remembered snippet of conversation, my mom went into a trendy music store and found the CD for me. No asking on my part, just an offhand comment that I liked a song. (The scene must have been great, my mom talking to the green haired clerk with multiple lip piercings that her daughter liked some song called “rock” or “wall” or something.)
I’ve tried to take this level of listening and paying attention and thought to my own gift giving. I’ve done well most years, but this one may get tough. (No money and no time…difficult.) So, while we make lists of things we want, what we give is usually very well thought out. (And for the most part useful.)
My mother-in-law, God bless her, does exactly the same thing! Only then she goes out and gets the wrong thing. I’m not sure how that works, but she does it every time (she does, however, grill me about her son’s preferences and vice versa - I just know all this because we share information). If I didn’t think it would stress her out even more, I’d refuse to give her any hints at all, but as it is, we’ll go through that same script above, she’ll get it narrowed down to “ankle-high blue suede slippers in Large - they have them in the Christmas aisle at Wal-Mart”… and then on Christmas morning she’ll present the person with red fuzzy mule slippers instead. I’d rather have the red slippers and know she didn’t run all over two towns looking for the damn blue ones.
Our family has, however, pretty much gotten over the problem of giving more than we can afford at Christmas. After my dad (who was the biggest gift-giver of all - if you can’t show love, give presents!) died, we all discussed it one day and realized that none of us were happy with the insane number of gifts we were giving and receiving. Nowadays, we try to focus more on the people and less on the things, and we’ve had some success with it.