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Dear Readers

Itís the holidays. If you have any money left over after you pay your bills,and whatever protection money outstanding, you might be wracking your brains thinking of what to get whoever. And many of you write me, Madrone, tell us what to do about all these thigamajigs that everyone has to have. Phones take pictures and our hair dryers are also good for making bread. Whatís going on, the world is going crazy. How can we buy something for anyone when we donít know what the thing is called let alone what itís good for. Plus who has money to waste these days? Help us we implore you Madrone, take pity on us!! Weíre begging you.

I get it, things are complicated. No one likes a nice mohair sweater anymore, hand knit like my Aunt Mickey used to make, or her mother, may she rest, who could take strips of tin from soup cans and make little shrines for Our Lady. No, those days are gone, kiss them goodbye and get a grip on yourself. Here is my guide to holiday gifts. Which if you follow, it should make things, if not smooth, at least easy on you.

But first, I donít care what religion you are. No really, I donít. Thatís your business, and please, leave me out of it. This is about family. Get that straight, and weíll all be happier. And please donít write me about it, Iím just throwing the letter in the garbage. Guarantee.

Hereís a general rule. There are some serious wrong ideas out there . Like that add where some clueless jamoke steps out of the house and sees a fancy car with a monster bow on it, and hugs the perpetrator? Donít be fooled, A really really expensive gift, especially if itís sprung on the unsuspecting, like doesnít mean love. No, seriously. Nine times out of ten, a big honking ring or a pricey beach house is meant to send this message : I can buy and sell you, so watch out.

This is all you need to know.

Kids under five: the gift isnít for the kid, please. Itís all about you sending a message to the parents about where they stand with you.

Kids between five and twelve: the present is now doing double duty. Whatever you want to tell the parents and what you want to tell the kids. One of the messages is , hey kid, I like you the way you are. For example, little Louie is a baseball nut, so you get him an el primo bat. A completely different message is you get little Louie a book about the life of Louie Pasteur.. which would be saying listen, kid, thereís a lot of ways to be a Louie and the way youíre going, you should think twice.

Kids between 12 and 18: Thereís not much anyone can give these kids, their happiness depends on things that donít get wrapped easily. You canít give them a boyfriend or a girlfriend or get rid of their acne or make sure they have someone to sit with on the bus, or supply the muscle necessary to get a pain in the neck teacher off their back. So it really doesnít matter. If their parents raised them right, theyíll smile and hug you whatever. In future years, they wonít remember what you gave them anyhow, just that you did.

18-30; an envelope does the best. Cash, check, whatever.

Over thirty- Your grown kids, your aging parents, siblings and spouse all can rightfully expect a token of some kind, but you donít have to knock yourself out. At this point in most peopleís lives they appreciate things they donít have to lock up, clean, or display to be polite. So stay away from the dueling pistols, any articles of clothing that are dry clean only or an umbrella stand made of seashells that you picked up when you were on the cruise and you stopped overnight in Aruba. So there it is. God bless, Donna.



Pamela Bongiorno Monk is a full time faculty member of Penn State University, where she teaches creative writing, both fiction and non fiction. She pursues freelance writing, authoring plays and feature articles. She has broken nearly as many rules of family as she has enforced.

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