It’s the official beginning of the holiday season, and the great machine of commerce begins to grind into a whole new gear.

Christmas is coming.

Obviously, that was a few months ago.  But I would like to discuss the reoccurring dilemma that plagues me every year.

What do you give a teenager?

And don’t say, “Money”!

That’s stupid.

I know, I know—it’s always the right size and color, but besides being wildly impersonal, it screams, “I don’t know anything about you anymore!”  Why not just hand them a card inscribed with: We have nothing in common at this point, but I still feel obligated to give you SOMETHING.  I am unable to finance your dreams for a new iPod/furniture set/wardrobe makeover/flashy car… so here’s $20.  Affectionately, Someone Else That You Feel Just Doesn’t Understand You?

Ugh!  See what I mean?!

And sure, YOUR particular teen may LOVE to get cash or check, but don’t you think that’s better suited for tucking into the folds of a surprise letter saying that you hope they go do something fun this weekend?  And you were just thinking of them?  And, by the way, you love them?  THAT’S where to put money.

Back to Christmas.  (Or birthdays or graduation or whatever).

For girls, jewelry is sometimes a logical answer… but you have to know their style, taste, and color preference.  Leatherman tools are nice for the guys… as long as they don’t already own one, are mechanically inclined, and don’t have to carry it back through airport security.  Music is great for both… if you know their favorite artists and whether or not they already own the songs.  Candy, clothes, and games all can fall prey to uncertain partialities, too.

My solution has become this:

Blankets.

Big or small, light or heavy, soft or structured… blankets send a subliminal message of comfort.

Handmade or purchased, the blanket also has a lot of staying power.  When your teen opens the gift, you may not get the incredulous, jumping-off-the-couch, insane excitement that a shiny new Jetta brings… but they will think cozy (or at least non-hostile) thoughts of you when they are sick and pull the blanket over their miserable body… or when they wrap up their new puppy in it… or when they lay it on the grass at the park, so their bum doesn’t get damp… or when it’s chilly out, and they’re in the cell phone lot at the airport, waiting to pick up a friend.

I can remember the benefactor of every throw, blanket, or quilt I have ever received.   Some of the coverings are now tattered or have been relegated to the trunk of the car (for transporting large artwork, keeping me from getting frostbite at the neighborhood football games, building a spontaneous fort, or laying over the seat when the dog has muddy paws).  BUT I value every one.

And whether or not the people who gave them to me were actually thoughtful, it makes me think that they were.

It’s like giving a hug with fabric.  Yeah, give that.

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