HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: It wasn't my idea to talk about gifts, but two things. One, yes, it's exactly the tight time for it. And two, today's guest Laura DiSIlverio herself is a gift. A gift to Sisters in Crime, where her tenure as national president was stellar, and where her valuable contributions continue. A gift to her readers, who gobble up her books as soon as they hit the shelves--her newest, well, there are two. The critically acclaimed dark thriller THE RECKONING STONES, and the next in her charming new cozy series, THE READAHOLICS AND THE POIROT PUZZLE. (How does she do it?)
And a gift to me,. She's a true, dear,wise, thoughtful and hilarious friend, one of the joys of my life. (Darn, I didn't mean to get sappy.)
So today, Laura faces reality.
Since this is a blog post in December, I feel compelled to write something holiday-related. (I know, I could break the mold and talk about quantum physics, the way men never put items in the fridge back where they belong, or the best new show on television, but I'm going to stick with the traditional.)
Let's talk holiday gift-giving.
Four of you just shut down your computers, and another half dozen have your fingers in your ears, going "La-la-la-la-la." Presents can be stressful for giver and recipient, regardless of their relationship. Worse, gift-giving practices can vary from culture to culture. And, no, I don't mean how Inuit traditions might be different from Sumatran. I'm talking differences between the wife's family's gift-giving culture and the husband's. Oooh. Several of you are nodding ruefully.
In my family growing up, presents were actual items under the (real) tree--not a gift card in sight. It was an unspoken rule--giving gift cards or money was cheating. In fact, asking someone what they wanted was practically verboten--you had to come up with a thoughtful, personalized and reasonably priced gift by observation and guesswork. Gift-giving was a test. Extra credit for handmade and creatively wrapped. Demerits for the wrong size.
When I married Tom, lo these many years ago, I discovered that his family tended to trade checks or gift cards as presents, which made all of them perfectly happy, but which struck me as a sad cop-out. It took several years of marriage before I could accept a gift card as anything other than "you weren't paying attention all year when I pointed out earrings I liked in March and a book I was eager to read in September." (I did get those earrings one year though--see Christmas morning photo.)
We have solved the problem of hurt feelings (me), befuddlement (Tom), and unmet expectations (both of us), by mostly buying something for us as a couple or a family, like tickets to a show or a weekend away. We have discovered that a shared experience is worth so much more (and remembered much longer) than a wisp of lingerie from Victoria's Secret or a Sharper Image gadget.
We have discovered that talking--gasp!--helps bridge the cultural gift gap. I can tell him what I want, where to find it, and what size to buy, and even accept a Nordstrom Rack gift card as a sign of his love for me and his knowing that I like to shop on my own and have "guilt free" money that I have to spend on myself. I can give him whatever gadget he wants (even knowing he'll only use it once or twice--if that--and then it will be clutter in the garage or basement), or his 1244th chess book or Civil War tome.
What we give each other every day is more important than what goes under the Christmas tree--respect, love, friendship, laughter and kindness. Dang, I didn't mean this to get mushy. (Yes, this is CHristmas morning…)
So, back to humorous--What was your worst gift-giving disaster (as recipient or giver)? What family cultural barriers have you had to bridge when it comes to presents? Who is the hardest person to buy for--your father who has everything, your persnickety sister, your friend who returns everything you get her?
HANK: I am still laughing. Laura, send Tom's slightly unused war books to me, and I will regift them to Jonathan. In return, I will send you any number of gadgets, gewgaws and fix-it tools. Hardly used. But we love those two guys ,right?
As for me, is there any way to give a wild-card gift card? But I always realize I don't need one thing, you know? Not one thing. So I am the easiest! But agent, editor, producer? Argh.
How about you, Femmes?
Laura DiSilverio is the author of the Swift Investigations and Mall Cop mystery series, as week as the standalone thriller THE RECKONING STONES and the new best-selling READAHOLICS series.
After twenty years as an Air Force intelligence officer – serving as a squadron commander, with the National Reconnaissance Office, and at a fighter wing – she retired to parenting and writing full-time.
Laura says: Spying was easier.