Suwannee Democrat


December 5, 2012

The Suwannee Scribbler - Grandbabies & Christmas gifts

Live Oak — Buying Christmas gifts for grandchildren can be really tough. At least it is for Lynda and me, who live on a budget. You see, I think our grandkids already have just about every toy imaginable!  
Walk into their homes, or into our living room when they are with us, and it looks like a terrorist has set off a bomb in a Toys-R-Us outlet. I recently told Lynda; when the grandbabies are at our place, forget the Hoover. Get a shovel!

I’m not complaining mind you. I’m delighted my son and daughter and their respective spouses have the financial ware-for-all to be able to get the grandkids whatever they want. I worry however that they are being spoiled. But I suspect that concern is not uncommon among many of us raised by parents who grew-up during the Great Depression.

When I was a youngster, Christmas was always the most important holiday in our home, but it wasn’t necessarily because I was showered with gifts. It had much more to do with baking Christmas cookies from scratch, going to town to see the animated department store windows or standing around my mother’s piano singing Silent Night or Jolly Old Saint Nicholas.

Then there was the tree! We usually waited until about a week before the big day to erect ours. No matter how lopsided its shape, it was magnificently beautiful…at least to me. Perhaps more importantly however, was the miniature cardboard Christmas village on the white cotton batting found under its decorated boughs. I just knew Santa’s tiny elves would love it when they helped him unload.     

Usually I was given one toy I really wanted for Christmas, plus a few smaller things to go with it. Every other gift was some type of apparel. In my universe, Santa was always practical, if nothing else.  

Of course, what passed for great Christmas gifts in the 1940s and 1950s often can be found today in a dollar store or a kid’s meal. Yet to me they were special…primarily because they encouraged me to use my imagination. I can still vividly remember the little farm collection I got when I was five. Then there was the plastic soldier set I found under the tree when I was nine.  

I suspect many of today’s youngsters would scoff at such gifts and yet they afforded me hours and hours of pleasure in a world that was completely my own.

As the result of my memories, Lynda and I go round-and-round over what to buy our grandbabies.  

She tends to gravitate more toward the latest electrical whiz-bang gizmo that is being marketed. Sometimes I tease her that if it doesn’t need two 12-volt car batteries to operate, she thinks it’s not good enough for “Nonny’s little darlings.” I understand where she is coming from and love her even more for it. Her goal is to try to give the kids a really unique toy she thinks they will remember forever.

For me however, the objective is somewhat different. My first question is always, will the gift still be working by New Year’s Day…and if it does, will the kids give a flying flip?

I remind her, there is a reason that Lincoln Logs and baby dolls are American gift mainstays.

Of course, sometimes I find myself stunned by the price of today’s “practical gifts.”

For instance, Lynda was shopping on the Internet the other day for a wagon, which I thought our youngest grandbaby might come to enjoy.

It wasn’t long before she announced with disbelief, “Jim, they have a kid’s wagon here that sells for $849.99!” And she wasn’t kidding. You can find it on, where apparently “Living Better for Less” isn’t always etched in stone.

My response; “For that price, it had damn well better include airbags and chauffeur!”

Jim lives in Live Oak.

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