Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 27, 1999

Leonard Gray / L’Observateur / November 27, 1999

It’s that time of year again, that time most dreaded by most guys – Christmas shopping season.

This year, my wife was merciful. This year, she’s taking care of most ofthe “couple” gifts – that is, those presents from both of us. I mayoccasionally be consulted on final selection but, for the most part, that’s her thing.

I’m in charge of getting gifts for the various children, including nephews, nieces and godchildren. That works for me, since she knows I’m a big kidmyself.

It’s always been a curious thing for me. I get along with kids, even thegrade-school children. Once they reach high school, other distractionsfrom their peers tend to pull them away from me but until that comes, I’ve always been good buddies with that age group.

I have a cousin who attends Auburn University. I’ve watched her grow upand she and I were good buddies and could joke and laugh together all the way until she went to Hahnville High. Now, on those rare occasions we seeeach other, we both know the relationship is different. And it’s easier forme to relate to children, in many ways, than adults. As I said, I’m a bigkid.

Anyway, this year’s list includes my niece, Minnie, who’s up in Pennsylvania. She’s four and she’s nuts over Uncle Lenny. My youngestnephew, David, is in Tacoma, Wash., and we get along fine as well. It bugsme they are both so far away, and I feel I’m missing out on watching them grow and mature.

It’s better with my godchildren, Maggie and Ian, who live in central Texas.

I see them at least twice a year and talk to them on the phone at least once a week or so. We’re tight.However, I’m aware that will change before long, since Maggie turned 13 in July and high school is right around the corner. Ian, five years younger,still has a few good years left.

So anyway, the gift shopping process has never been good for me. It’stough to buy for parents and doubly hard to buy for my wife. She doesn’thelp when she tells me she “doesn’t really want anything” or “doesn’t really need anything.”Never believe that, guys.

Try it one year and you will see what I mean. I’ve never been brave enoughto take her at her word, but I know for a fact my head would be handed to me if I didn’t get a gift or several.

Added to my problem is our wedding anniversary, which is Dec. 21. Yes,that’s right. We got married four days before Christmas and I cannot, ever,ever, get away with shopping for one special day and not the other. There’sno such thing as one gift covering both.

Compounding that problem this year is the fact that this is our 20th wedding anniversary. Yes, someone actually had the stamina, patience andlove to stick with me for 20 years. Who would’ve thought it?So the pressure is on to come up with something really special and really sweet and perhaps sexy and really memorable for that special anniversary.

Any ideas? I’m flat out.

We do have a getaway weekend planned to the Mississippi Gulf Coast and she insists she’s satisfied with that and doesn’t want me to spend extra money and go all extravagant just for her.

This guy’s no fool.

I have one or two vague notions but I’m always aware of my shortcomings on shopping. Diamonds are frequently mentioned to me as a gift idea,however, I’m not that up to snuff on picking a good diamond. Twenty yearsago, I found out a couple of months ago, the lovely little engagement ring I bought her has a visible flaw in the stone. I offered to replace it with abetter stone, larger and less flawed, but she wouldn’t hear of it.

However, I can’t tell if she was disappointed or not about the stone in her engagement ring. And I’m leery about buying diamond earrings, forexample, and finding out 20 years from now I got a couple of bad stones again.

The children I have no real difficulty in buying for. I know what I wouldlike to share with them on Christmas morning, especially with games and the like, and I buy accordingly. I introduced Maggie to a couple of goodbooks in the past and now her reading comprehension is up and she’s actually writing for the school’s newspaper. (I’m SO proud!)I seriously need some ideas for our silver wedding anniversary, though.

And, oh, throw in Christmas as well.

The pressure is on and the guys are considering gift certificates at this point. Not a good notion. Make it personal.And my wife just called – the item I had picked out of a catalog for Ian is all out at the company. I have to start over.What’s a guy to do?

Leonard Gray is a staff reporter for L’Observateur.

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