My father was a devotee of practical thinking, a man not easily swayed by societal norms of convention or tradition. One area where that was evident was his approach toward buying gifts.
He didn’t buy dresses for my mother, which she would need to later exchange, nor diamond jewelry, which he understood is not an investment. The two of them had a joint checking account from which Mama was welcome to purchase what she wanted. She shared his conservative values and embraced shopping for herself during their sixty years of marriage.
Daddy’s gift-buying tactics were easily adopted as my own when Jane and I married in 1974. The designated shopper rule should perhaps have been included in our wedding vows, but we stuck with the basics – “in sickness or in health, for richer or poorer, for better or worse.” There may have been some other things which I’ve forgotten. I was too smitten to pay close attention.
Jane doesn’t mind shopping for herself because she realizes I’m not adept at picking out gifts. She adroitly handles the purchases of presents with an uncanny ability to find sale prices so low I feel guilty about accepting the discount. There have, however, been a few occasions when I’ve stumbled across something that made my heart beat rapidly in anticipation of how delighted she would be. Like when I surprised her with an exceptionally stout wheelbarrow.
It was for Christmas or maybe an anniversary, or perhaps both, since they’re only three days apart. As soon as I saw that wheelbarrow, I knew it was going home with me. It’s not a run of the mill thin-tin hard-tire model but is a sturdy workhorse with Michelin rubber and a big bucket suitable for commercial use. It’s so extraordinary we secure it with padlocks and have it listed on our homeowner’s policy. And every time Jane fills its giant bowl with sticks and pinecones, she is poignantly reminded of my tender gesture. She doesn’t have to say it. I see it in her smile.
There’ve been other special occasions when I’ve surprised my wife. Among the notable acquisitions are battery-operated hedge clippers, multiple hand tools, and a small Ryobi chainsaw. I’ve considered getting her a bigger saw, but those things can be dangerous.
About twenty years ago, I had to call Georgia Power on a holiday weekend because a felled tree knocked down a power line on our property. I apologetically explained to the man in the lift truck that my wife had been cautioned about cutting the large sweetgums but had been lulled into carelessness after successfully downing several trees. He surveyed the damage then said he figured something like that is what happened.
There’s a reason I’m covering gift-buying today in the off-season. I’ve been recently emboldened by a validation of practicality from an unexpected source. It came about by reading the Valentine’s Day devotional written by Daniel Schantz in the 2021 edition of Guideposts.
The seasoned writer shared about buying his wife of many decades a nice card, which is commendable though not always necessary in my opinion. I gave Jane a lovely Valentine’s card this year that had come in the mail from the American Heart Association with a solicitation for funds. The argument can be made, however, that Daniel’s choice may have been the better of those two.
What got my attention, though, was how creatively he took on the daunting task of finding a substitute for customary chocolates. His wife had decided to cut back on sweets, and he wanted to be supportive. That’s what led Daniel to buy and gift wrap packages of frozen okra and asparagus. What better way is there I mused for a man to say, “I love you,” than with frozen vegetables?
Daniel’s story opened my mind to a panacea of ideas that reach far beyond the food isle. My focus has been on the yard while I’ve ruefully overlooked the kitchen. But now the thoughts of copper pots, knives that slice aluminum cans, and airless fryers at super-special TV pricing have my adrenalin pumping too fast to take an afternoon nap. Perhaps it wasn’t his intention, but for me Daniel Schantz has elevated gift buying to another level.
My father was a devotee of practical thinking, and I am my father’s son. That’s all I’ll say for now, as the loving wave of my wife is beckoning. It’s time to empty the wheelbarrow again.