I think everyone is acquainted with a person who’s nearly impossible to Christmas shop for – someone who either has no hobbies or interests or who is so fussy, he or she hates just about everything.
For years, that person on my list has been George.
George is in his late 70s and is a dear family friend who’s always been extremely generous with his gifts for us. But the minute I think about Christmas shopping for him, I break out in hives.
The first few years, it wasn’t too bad. For one thing, George collected Titanic memorabilia. So I bought him everything and anything I could find about the Titanic – photos, posters, puzzles, books. I probably even would have gone on Ebay and bid on a frozen chunk of the iceberg the ship hit…if I could have figured out how to wrap it up for George for Christmas.
But then came the fateful day he said, “I’m tired of my Titanic collection. In fact, I’m going to sell everything. I’m sick of looking at the stuff.”
My heart sank (pun intended), especially since I’d just ordered a framed mirror with the Titanic hand-painted on it.
“But I’ve decided to start collecting wooden replicas of old sailing ships and tall ships now,” he said.
My spirits rose slightly. I checked the Internet to see what I could find out about the wooden ships.
I found out they cost just about as much as a new human-sized speedboat.
Nevertheless, I saved my pennies, and the next Christmas, I bought George a replica of the Cutty Sark. And the year after that, it was a replica of the USS Constitution, followed by the HMS Victory. To my delight, he “oohed” and “aahed” over each of them. I was thrilled.
But a few months later, George’s best friend told me about a garage sale the two of them were having together, and emailed me a photo of all of the things they had gathered to sell. There, sitting on one of the yard-sale tables, were the ships I’d bought for George – the same ships I had sacrificed going to the movies – and basically, eating – for, so I could afford them.
“Well, they were really nice, but they turned out to be dust collectors,” George explained when I asked him about the ships. “And at my age, I’ve decided it’s time to start getting rid of stuff instead of collecting it.”
Once he stopped collecting things, that’s when my headaches began. I thought gift cards would be the answer to all of my problems, so I bought him one to a store he usually visited at least three times a week.
“I hate gift cards,” he said. “They make me feel as if the person who bought them was too lazy to put any thought or effort into the gift. Also, they are embarrassing to use. I usually just toss them out. I mean, I wouldn’t insult anyone else by giving the cards to them.”
Toss them out? I couldn’t believe my ears! I was ready to go fish his trash barrels to reclaim my gift.
I noticed that most of his clothes were in a camouflage pattern, so I asked him about it one day.
“I love camouflage,” he said. “It’s all I wear now.”
So the next Christmas, I bought him a nice hooded jacket in a camouflage pattern, with a winter hat to match.
His expression when he opened the gifts, however, resembled that of someone who’d just found rat droppings in his cereal. I had the distinct feeling his next words weren’t going to be, “Ooh! I love these!”
Unfortunately, I was right.
“I wear only military camouflage,” he said tightly. “And not the fake stuff. I wear the real government-issued camouflage clothing. This shirt and hat are hunters’ camouflage, not the official military one. I don’t hunt. I don’t kill animals!”
Heck, I’d always thought camouflage was camouflage. If you could hide in the bushes while wearing it and blend in with the trees, then it was fine to me – but obviously not for George. And how was I supposed to get official military camouflage clothing anyway? Go mug a Marine?
“Make a donation to his favorite charity,” one of my friends suggested the next year when I mentioned I would rather be rolled in honey and staked near a swarm of killer bees than to have to shop for a Christmas gift for George once again. “He can’t complain about a gift like that. It would make him look worse than Scrooge!”
I thought she might have a good idea. So I tried to find out which charities George favored.
“Do you ever donate to any charities?” I asked him one day, trying to sound casual.
He shook his head and frowned. “The trouble with charities,” he said, “is you can’t tell the legitimate ones from the ones that are trying to rip you off. So I decided not to trust any of them and not donate at all. I’ve also decided to follow my father’s advice that charity begins at home!”
I rolled my eyes. It was official. George had just broken the world’s record for being the most impossible person on earth to buy a gift for.
So this year, when Christmas-shopping time rolled around once again, I stopped worrying about George. I knew that no matter what I bought him, he would hate it, so I decided to quit needlessly wasting money on him and just buy him some cheap stuff. That way, if he tossed it out, it wouldn’t be as painful to my wallet.
It took me all of 10 minutes to shop for his gifts because frankly, I didn’t care any more. I bought him a couple of his favorite candy bars, a few seed packets of his favorite garden flowers, some birdseed for his bird feeder, and a pouch of his favorite pipe tobacco. The total cost was less than $20. Then I wrapped the gifts and tossed them into a bigger box and wrapped that. I didn’t even think about George or his gifts again until Christmas.
“Fantastic!” he exclaimed when he opened them. “I LOVE everything!”
I honestly nearly needed CPR.
So this year will go down in history as the year I finally pleased George with my gifts.
But if you know of anyone who wants to buy a mirror with a hand-painted picture of the Titanic on it, just let me know.
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