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The Perfect Christmas Gifts

By Lorraine Duffy Merkl

About Mommy-in-the-Middle:

The voice behind Mommy-in-the-Middle, Lorraine Duffy Merkl is the author of the novel, Fat Chick. She is also a freelance journalist, whose work has appeared in The New York Times and many other publications.

“What do you want for Christmas?” I asked.

“New eyes and new ears,” said my 89-year-old mother, who is losing both her sight and her hearing. Clearly, I cannot get her new senses, so I ended up getting something else she needs – something practical – the Dyson tower fan. Her apartment gets very warm in the summer and she doesn’t like air conditioning. Her current fan is on its last oscillating legs.

On the other end of the spectrum, my almost 14-year-old daughter, Meg, wants gift cards. I envision that one day she will be a personal shopper at Bloomingdale’s or Saks, as she loves both fashion and finding it (the act of shopping is more important to her, I believe, than what she’s buying.) Currently though she is only browsing the stores for herself.

“Well, that was easy,” you must be saying. And it was. I ordered the Dyson fan from their website (and got $100 dollars off because it was Cyber Monday) and got Meg her gift cards at her usual haunts of T.J. Maxx, H&M and Forever 21.

Although I always enjoy crossing things off my to-do list, dragging the pen point over my mother’s and Meg’s names this year made me kind of sad.

I miss the days of the special gift; the one that elicits the surprised look and the words, “You didn’t!” or “How’d you find it?” or “I can’t believe you thought of this?”

I fear those days are behind me. My mother has what she needs and wants no more. “I hate clutter,” she tells me. The only time she gets something new is when the old needs replacing, such as the fan.

Meg wants to buy things herself, as a new form of independence: The act of going to the store excites her, as it once did me.

I feel more like an order-filler than someone who once made dreams come true with the hard to get toy for Meg or the longed for piece of jewelry my mother would never spend money on for herself, with the added cachet of saying to people, “My daughter got it for me.”

But getting them what they ask for is my job, and I do it well. So now, instead of shock and awe at what I have procured, they will look satisfied and relieved that I listened.

A simple, “Thank you,” from Mom and Meg will replace the more Price Is Right audience-type responses.

As long as they are happy, that is the best gift of all. What do you think?

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