I love giving presents. Shopping for my sister for instance is simply fun. Buying for her is a lot like buying for me, but better because not only do I not have to justify the purchase, I also can feel good about it. Shopping for others however can be more difficult. But like anything else, when the mission is accomplished, you can feel good about having met the challenge.
Take my brother Adam, for example. When it comes to hobbies and interests, I don’t think we have a single thing in common. He watches football and baseball. I watch triathlon and cycling. He enjoys the water by paddling leisurely down the Saco river in a canoe. I prefer to put on my wetsuit and swim at Narragansett Beach. When we were little kids, he could navigate the entire trip from our house in RI to our grandparents’ in PA, a distance of 420 miles. I on the other hand couldn’t figure out the 2 mile route from our house to school. We do share reading as a common interest, although he likes graphic novels while I gravitate toward fiction. So shopping for him is tough, as I have to get outside my shopping comfort zone to search for things that would make him happy.
Over the years, I have come the conclusion that what makes Adam happy is simply being prepared… for everything. That’s right. Everything. You name it, he’s ready for it. Remember y2k? He had everything you could want in his basement, from canned food to water, batteries, flashlights, transistor radio, etc. If you look in his truck you will find at least one blanket, flares, a first aide kit, and jumper cables (among other bare essentials). When I moved into my 2nd floor apartment he presented me with a fire extinguisher and an escape ladder. He is never without some form of cutlery, whether its a Swiss Army knife or a Leatherman in his pocket. For his 30th birthday I got him various sizes of water-tight boxes, perfect for holding any documents or other valuables in case of a flood. (I think they were designed with kayakers in mind). He liked this very much. For Hannukah this year I really wanted to find something he would enjoy.
My sister-in-law, Meredith has said I am a great gift-giver. I feel this is one of the greatest compliments that could be bestowed on me* so I did not want to let anyone down. Moreover my brother has a history of giving awesome gifts. I thank him for my adorable little digital camera and my brand new Garmin Forerunner 305, for instance. I have yet to finish making his wedding gift. He and Meredith married in August. With this in mind, I entered REI aglow with anticipation of all the Adam-style treasures and trinkets that awaited. To and fro, this way and that, I zigged and zagged my way through aisles of dehydrated food, bars, gels, camelbacks, portable showers, and headlamps. I snaked through backpacks, bike helmets, and maps. Stopping only to try on 2 clearance rack tops, I forged through smartwool, coolmax, and neoprene in search of just the right gift. With the help of a kind young salesman, I finally found the perfect potpourri of presents to throw in with the old-school Patriots car decal I’d purchased online; an assortment of toe and handwarmers, a book “Learn to Play the Harmonica in 3 minutes,” which included a harmonica (this was actually a gift for Adam and Meredith. He he), and bear spray, which was supposed to protect you from bears or other intruders from a distance of up to 30 feet.
Tonight, after we ate dinner and lit the menorah, Mom, Dad, Adam, Meredith, and I took turns opening presents in our parents’ living room. (Liz, we missed you!). As Adam untied the white curly ribbon from the gift bag, I assured him there was a gift receipt in the bag, just in case, inwardly confident in my knowledge that there was no “in case.” This was a thoughtful, appropriate, clever gift for the man who is prepared for everything. He might think he has everything, but bear spray? Now, this was unique! Seriously. Who has bear spray? I felt this would be on par with the beloved Petzl headlamp I’d given him a couple of years ago. Admittedly, I had an air of smugness as he unfolded the tissue paper encasing the bear spray. I waited with bated breath, sure that he would be thrilled with his new emergency-preparedness accoutrement.
He grinned, exclaiming, “Bear spray! This is great! The only thing is, I have it already, you said there’s a gift receipt in here, right? Actually I have one in my glovebox and one at work.”
If this were my movie, this would be the part where the music abruptly stops and everyone become suddenly silent. He has it? What? He has TWO of them???? Adam’s reaction to my creative gift was met first with disbelief, then laughter, everyone shaking their heads, as if to say “Only Adam.” All I can say is I hope I am with him when a bear attacks Pawtucket.
*Other great compliments include but are not limited to: You look thin, Your stroke is looking really good, You are quite the climber