While I do look forward to the feast that comes with tomorrow’s holiday and nod in appreciation to the distant heavens to Abe Lincoln for giving us the last Thursday each November as a national day to give thanks for our many blessings, this is also the time of year when my thoughts turn away from turkey and pumpkin pie to a gumdrop.
You see, I’ve accorded that moniker to both of my little ladies, seven-in-September Abigail and nine-this-coming-Sunday Caroline, overseen by my younger daughter Katie and her hubby, Hans.
Now, with such occasions there obviously comes a need for gifts from PaPa. Of course, there are those big checks written to keep those 529s opened for them upon their worldly entries rolling, but there’s also a need for a gift of a more immediate and tangible nature. Despite the fact that I do think they’re old enough to understand that whole college money thing, it’s hard to have much fun with a certificate with a deposit number on it.
So, I always get with Katie to get not just some ideas but THE idea, be it gymnastics lessons or the latest Barbie doll house. However, for this birthday, after a trip to my mailbox, I really thought I stumbled upon the perfect gift. I received a colorful advertising flyer that transported me back in time to my own growing up when the magazines Boy’s Life and Highlights were indispensables for me and my mates.
Well, since my little gumdrops wouldn’t have any interest in Boy’s Life, of course, you can correctly surmise the mailer was for a year’s subscription to Highlights, a magazine that, since its launch in 1946, has instilled in countless kiddos an appreciation of learning and especially words and early problem solving through puzzles and other activities.
The age 6-12 version I thought was perfect for both as I aimed for what the flyer promised to be “countless hours of fun-filled, mind-expanding entertainment that reinforces the subjects they are learning in school.”
My, I thought, how proud Katie will be that I didn’t need any help this time. I actually thought about removing the gift-giving training wheels and not even telling Katie by filling out the subscription and mailing it in. In my mind, Caroline would devour each issue cover-to-cover and also share the magazine with little sis and help her with some of the puzzles, thereby increasing their sororal bonds and chase away any sibling rivalry forever!
I imagined a scene reminiscent of Ralphie’s in that 1983 classic holiday flick that will soon be on us again, “A Christmas Story” when he imagines the reaction and ensuing adulation to his Christmas theme about his desire to find under his Christmas tree that Red Ryder BB gun.
Alas, Ralphie’s reality is a C+ on the theme, not the A+++ he imagined Miss Shields would be dancing by the blackboard writing as his classmates carried him around the room on their shoulders..
However, when I proposed the idea to Katie, I heard a pause on the other end, followed by an “ahhh,” definitely not a good start when one is seeking utter approbation.
Sensing my excitement, Katie told me that I could do that if I really wanted, but, in the interest of full transparency, she thought I should know that her beautiful, bright first born hates to read.
“Wait a minute,” I said. “Is this the same little girl whose mother is in education and whose PaPa taught for 32 years and is a freelance writer, the same little girl whose father is a lawyer and has read and written countless legal documents for years, the same little girl, for some time now, I’ve watched hanging over anyone else’s shoulder who received a card of their special day volunteering to read the card for all to admire her reading talents? THAT little girl?”
I kept looking at the colorful flyer and attempted to chase the vision of her running to the mailbox at the beginning of each month breathlessly awaiting each issue, similar to the aforementioned Ralphie running to his mailbox waiting for that Little Orphan Annie secret decoder pin.
Glumly, I asked Kate just what would be a suitable gift for a nine-year-old with an aversion to reading and the answer, I’ll admit, disheartened me a bit. Instead of those wonderfully colorful and stimulating twelve issues of an iconic kids’ magazine loaded with stimulating activities, what did my little gumdrop want?
Katie said, “Well, if you really want to make her happy, she’d like a salon certificate to get her nails done.”
Listen, folks, I’m really not sure who to blame here, but I think who many see as the queens of superficiality, the Kardashians, might be a good place to start.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering if I’m letting any cats out of the bag about my gift before Sunday’s big day, not to worry. She wouldn’t even read PaPa’s stuff!
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.