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The art of the perfect gift
Sherry Young with her family in 1983. - photo by Sherry Young
Everyones getting into holiday mode as we recall warm feelings of finding the perfect gift for someone. The perfect gift. Is there any such thing?

When our children were small, my husband, Grit, and I would get a sitter, go to dinner, and then hit a toy store, buying each child a few toys. Those holidays were usually successful because small children are in love with all the lights and tinsel and the whole idea of baby Jesus, Santa and reindeer.

Buying presents for teenagers was always a turkey shoot. Our oldest son, Steve, remembers some poor timing with holiday presents. He recalled one year getting golf clubs. Well, what can you do with golf clubs in December in Connecticut? If we had also given him a ticket to Florida for a week along with them, maybe he would have a better memory.

His favorite gift was when he and younger brother, Mike, shared a pinball game. It wasnt so much the gift but the camaraderie and competition of trying to get the highest score and best a sibling that made it a great hit.

One year, Steve encouraged us to get a BB gun for Mike. Of course, this meant if one was in the house, he could use it too. We moved to Connecticut from out West, a place where guns were accepted with deer hunting a norm, so it didnt seem unreasonable.

When Grit had to rescue Mike from the police station for shooting at a stop sign, we realized our error, and the gun was hidden away until Mike took it back to Utah after he married.

We had a bit of difficulty once with our daughter, Melissa. Santa took her long overdue bottle with him, leaving her a lovely Madame Alexander doll with dark hair just like hers. She loved the doll but still remembers resentment at the switch.

Then to make matters worse, because the doll was given to her at a young age and loved to pieces (literally a leg fell off as well as most its hair), Santa replaced it with a new one just like it but with blonde hair. She remembers feeling like hed taken away her child.

We must have gotten better at gift buying because the last two, Tom and Jim, remember only happy times. This is surprising coming from Jim, who was born on Dec. 22. He sometimes got stiffed with a birthday so close to Christmas.

Jim, 17 years younger than Steve and 9 years younger than our fourth child, Tom, was our family's best Christmas gift ever. We brought him home from the hospital Christmas Eve 1978.

When it comes to giving gifts, sometimes its just blind luck. Achieving a positive end takes some thinking, which is the purpose of gift giving in the first place. Likewise, getting something your heart has been longing for when no one could have guessed is an amazing experience but doesn't often happen. As a rule, its best to make lists or give some very heavy hints if you dont want to be disappointed.

If only we were as all-seeing as the Magi, those wise men who invented the art of Christmas giving. Since most of us arent, my advice is to buy the best gift you can, present it with love, and let the season speak for itself. Or in desperation, theres always a gift card.
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