Grandmas: Check attics for gift ideas
We’ve all experienced that anticlimactic moment after tearing through layers of sparkling paper, bows and ribbon only to find ... that perplexing object, most often of the useless variety.
This time, two mysterious oblong spheres sit among the tissue, made of a dark felted material.
“Ear poppers?” I read from the package, puzzled. “Uh, thanks Grandma ... Oh, instead of earmuffs you just snap these onto your ears, how convenient,” I stammer.
I look across the room at my cousin wincing as one clamps onto his right ear. He pulls it off and rubs his red lobe protectively.
The next year it is rainbow-striped knee socks with an individual compartment for each toe.
“Fun!” my sister lies.
“It’s like a glove for your foot,” I mutter half-heartedly.
Things went on this way for awhile. Each year Grandma would give everyone in the family a new matching gift in an effort to keep up with trends, and each year my parents, aunts, uncles and us grandchildren would pretend she was on target.
One Christmas my Aunt almost gave us away. After one too many glasses of wine her enthusiasm tread a dangerous line with sarcasm.
“Let me guess, a cow calendar again! Wonderful!” she bellowed, holding up the cover illustration of a cow wearing a hat and heels.
It’s taken me a few experiences in my Grandma’s shoes to understand her struggles to find the perfect gift. With my younger cousins, nieces and nephews, I’ve struck out a few times myself.
As much as I want to be the cool relative, I tend to slip behind the times, grabbing for Lego’s for a teenage boy, or a pink piggy bank for a cousin who’s getting ready to go to her senior prom.
If you ask me, grandmothers are the ones with the gift-giving advantage, if only they can realize it. No one can bestow a present with as much meaning as they can. While I mysteriously “lost” the striped toe socks and ear poppers mine bought me, some of my most treasured belongings are household items my Grandma has given me throughout the years.
She’s given my sisters and me pretty linens from the 1960s, jewelry from when she was our age, old classic books like Jane Eyre and even some of her wedding cutlery and dishes.
On Thanksgiving, I baked pumpkin muffins in a tin she gave me that used to be my great-grandmothers. For a moment as I was baking my thoughts drifted to the strangeness of time, of my Grandma as a young woman making muffins for my dad, and her mother before her doing the same.
When my Grandpa died earlier this year and my Grandma moved into a smaller apartment, she gave me the grandfather clock his dad built by hand more than 50 years ago.
The clock used to stand in my grandparents living room, where I’d cuddle under blankets on the couch with my sisters eating peanut butter M&M’s and watch golf with Grandpa sitting nearby in his chair. Part of me still forgets we won’t be back there together this Christmas.
So for all Grandmas still looking for presents, I’d suggest taking inventory of your own attic. Perhaps your family will appreciate you for it because they don’t make things like they used to, or maybe because we crave a little extra inspiration while we’re baking muffins.
Donna Schill Cleveland is a staff writer at The Ledger.