I was wondering if you would be able to help me. With Christmas fast approaching I’m in a bit of a pickle with figuring out a gift. My parents live near me and their neighbors are an older couple, I’d say in their 70s? Well, the woman (we can call her Gramma Inga as my daughter calls her) LOVES to shop, and has been buying clothes and presents for my daughter and now son for the past 2 years. She doesn’t need an occasion other than Macy-had-a-sale Day. I would love to give her something for Christmas to show her how much I appreciate what she does, because my goodness a very large portion of my daughters adorable dresses and outfits came from her!
However, I am completely stumped… I’ve never purchased anything for anybody that much older than myself other than my parents. She’s German and loves cooking, always bringing food over to my parents house when she’s “made too much” for her husband and herself. I thought of perhaps making something for them both but I’m at a loss as well what to make. You seem so great at choosing gifts for people and your readers are always helpful. You actually helped me with a naming problem with my latest addition. So Swistle, could you and your readers help me please? What do I get Gramma Inga for Christmas? For someone who gives so much during the year I feel like anything I do won’t be enough to really say thank you!
Here is the problem, in my experience, with gift-shopping for a Not-Very-Well-Known Elderly Person:
1. The best would be a gift card, because ONLY THEY will know what they want and have room for.
2. In general, they dislike the idea of gift cards and find them impersonal and thought-free.
Oh, sure, someone’s grandma LOVES gift cards and someone else’s grandma is EASY to buy for—but IN GENERAL, we have a Very Difficult Situation Indeed.
As I see it, there are three ways around this:
1. Giving something that is basically a gift card, without seeming to be, or
2. Giving the gift of service/chores, or
3. Giving something else (ideally something expendable) and hoping it doesn’t tank.
Ways to give a gift card without seeming to give one:
1. Giving something with a gift receipt attached.
2. Donating to a known-loved charity/church/library/etc. in the recipient’s name.
3. That’s pretty much it. Even that second one is kind of a reach.
The gift of service is a great idea, but harder to manage. In fact, I’m going to skip it. I think it ends up being awkward for a lot of people, since it might seem to imply that you think they’re elderly and can’t take care of themselves, or since you might not know if they already get their lawn mowed or whatever, or since it might require them to tell you when to provide the service and they might not feel comfortable doing that part. I put this here mostly as an idea for people in different situations (like with a well-known elderly person to buy for) who might happen upon this post and think, “Hey, I know my dad hates to take the trash to the dump each week—I could buy him a few months’ weekly-pick-up service, or I could give a ‘coupon’ saying I’ll do it for a year!”
And so as you might have guessed, for Gramma Inga I’m putting my support behind Idea #3: Give something expendable and hope the idea doesn’t tank. Here are some expendable but loving options:
1. Holiday decoration from florist shop or grocery store: a small decorated evergreen tree, or a wreath made from evergreen/holly, or a centerpiece basket of pine cones and evergreen and metallic balls. I’m uncertain whether to lean more toward living potted plant-type things (my grandparents thought cut flowers were a silly waste of money, so now I associate that attitude with All Elderly People) or real-but-dead arrangements (not everyone wants another houseplant to take care of, and it’s nice to have the lovely piney smell for a few weeks but then toss it out guilt-free after the holidays).
…Wait, I have changed my mind. I DO still think the holiday decoration would be a good idea, but now I’m thinking of an Idea #4: No holiday gift. Buying something this year may make you feel you need to give something each year, and if we’re having so much trouble the first year just imagine the trouble down the line! No, instead you are going to give her three gifts: (1) the gift of feeling that one’s kind acts are noticed and appreciated, (2) the gift of feeling involved in and important to the lives of others, and (3) the gift of knowing oneself to be thought of frequently and with affection.
I suggest sending a holiday card with a long and heartfelt note inside, about how much you appreciate her kindnesses to your family, how much you love her sense of style, how adorable the children look in the clothes, and how you think of her every time they wear something she chose for them. Include a stack of snapshots taken over the last year—anything that shows your daughter or son wearing something Gramma Inga bought. Also include a card colored by your daughter.
Then do THAT each year, with or without a pretty holiday arrangement to accompany it.