• ,

Silver Threads: Ready or not, Christmas comes

Bettye Anding

Bettye Anding

In the culture of my childhood -- circa 1940s and '50s in the Ark-La-Tex -- it was considered tacky to give a Christmas, wedding or birthday gift of cash.

(A hasty digression here: Does the word "tacky," except as used to describe something "sticky," really mean anything anymore? If so, much of today’s entertainment, dress and customs might described as "something that shows bad taste," at least from the viewpoint of one senior.)

I googled "Emily Post," who wrote her landmark book on etiquette 13 years before I was born, and found that most of her posted comments on gift-giving pertain to weddings, for which she endorses the giving of money in the form of a gift certificate from a store.

Let’s assume she’s also okay with this plan for Christmas.

Still, I have to wonder whether Emily is the true source here, since gift certificates may not have been available in 1922. Can these be the thoughts instead of her great granddaughter-in-law, Peggy, who emerged not too long ago as the Post guru on politesse?

Whatever. On Dec. 18, I have pretty much missed the boat anyhow, having failed to purchase but three Christmas gifts out of more than 15 required to make everyone in the family happy during the holidays. Cash or gift certificates may be the only options.

It’s not all my fault. There’s the huge problem of a gift for our daughter, who, in her late teens, took every gift of clothing that I had bought for her back to the store. When I see something I think might look good on her, I remember that Christmas exchange and walk on.

Then there is my stepdaughter-in-law, who is equally intimidating as an object of gift-giving. Each Christmas, she treats me to something thoughtful: a tile upon which she has commissioned a drawing of the little cottage where we once spent weekends on the north shore, four Mignon Faget cocktail glasses emblazoned with The Times-Picayune logo, several beautiful vases and trays purchased from arts fairs. I can’t match her ingenuity.

Our grandsons, once so easy to buy for, so easy to please, now at 16 and 18 fail to disclose their wish lists, possibly because their wants have become expensive (laptops, pads and pods, fancy backpacks, etc.). Better just to give cash and buy something edible for opening on the day. (But do they still like marzipan as much as they used to?)

Were I as efficient as all those people who plague me with the question, “Are you ready for Christmas,” I would have done months ago the things suggested on one of the websites I visited in search of Emily Post:

  • Get their wish list. Ask people for hints or even a wish list. Gather ideas during the year, and write everything down.
  • Buy it when you see it. If you're shopping in July and see a sweater that your mother would love, buy it. It probably will not be available when you look for it again in December.
  • Start a gift closet. Stash a few gifts that will work in a pinch: copies of your favorite cookbook, a good bottle of wine, or boxes of beautiful note cards. That way you will be ready if you need a gift on the spot.

Do people who are this “ready for Christmas” really exist? Apparently so. Or they wouldn’t be asking me if I am.

Bettye Anding is a former editor of the Living section of The Times Picayune, for which she wrote “Silver Threads” until her retirement. Email comments to her at [email protected]