I'm glad holiday season is over. Not just because of the whole who's gonna cook what and where thing, or whose family is going to send the drama level to Defcon 1. That is stressful shit, sure, but let's face it, finding the right gift that will make your loved one's face light up with joy is probably the most stressful part of the holidays. I'm sure we've all agonized over a purchase, the gremlins SHOULD I and SHOULDN'T I perched on each shoulder offering their conflicting opinions.
I remember buying a baby bouncy seat for a pregnant friend. I swear, more thought went into this than into the planning of the invasion of Normandy. Should I get the one that vibrated, or the one that didn't? If I got the vibrating one, would that mean the baby would never fall asleep without the vibrations? If I didn't get the vibrating one, did that mean the baby would never fall asleep, or my friend would have to bounce that kid herself until her arm fell off from overuse? Should I get the one with the umbrella thingie, or the detachable toys? What about the ergonomic one? (Seriously, have you seen the weird positions babies sleep in? Ergonomic, schmergonomic. Babies are contortionists.) By the time I bought the damn seat I was exhausted. (In case you're wondering, I got the vibrating one. I figured my friend needed a sleeping baby and could fix any fallout issues later in the game.)
I've given myself at least 4 strokes trying to figure out the Perfect Gift to get my mother for the last umpteen years. Same for my husband. They both think they are easy to buy for. Bullshit. People who say "Oh, no need to buy me anything, I'm fine!" are a huge pain in the rump. You have to get them something, as you know if you listened to them and didn't get them anything it'd come back to bite you in the ass for years thereafter. But you can never figure out what exactly they want, because they never tell you. So the whole gifting thing becomes a crapshoot.
That's why I love giving gift cards. They're great. I feel they tell the giftee, "Here's free money to spend on whatever strikes your fancy. Knock yourself out!" There are those who would disagree with that, those who feel gift cards are a cop out designed to make the gift giver feel good about themselves while putting as little thought into the gift as possible. My mother falls into that camp. She feels that giving a gift card shows a lack of regard. Pffffffttttttt.
I completely disagree. I think they're brilliant. I hate to shop. Malls give me the twitches. And hives. There are only two places where I don't hate shopping: Tack shops and Barnes & Noble. I could spend hours in either. Give me a gift card to Barnes & Noble and I'll wander around, breathing in the wonderful smell of paper and ink, picking up book after book and reading the synopsis on the dust jacket, laying some aside in a must-have pile and others in the maybe pile.
Same thing applies to tack shops. A gift card to a tack shop means that not only can I go in and wander around to my heart's content, but I can now look at the dress sheet/breeches/helmet/halter/blanket/boots I've had my eyes on and find them more affordable. Whole new vistas and opportunities open up! Where before I may have only been able to consider necessities (Indy needs a new halter), now I have the option to consider luxuries (maybe that shipping halter I've been lusting after). Or at least a wider variety of necessities. Instead of looking longingly at the Tredstep Symphony breeches, maybe now I can try them on with the intent to actually buy them!
My husband, mother-in-law, and my recently-converted mother, have all realized that gift cards are really the most thoughtful gift to give me. They know it's not just a gift, it's the whole experience. The enjoyment of formulating a plan of attack for post-holiday sales at my favorite tack shops. The fun of pulling out catalogs, and spending time leafing through to find the dog-eared pages with the items on my horsie wish list.
A gift card is not a thoughtless gift at all. A gift card gives the giftee the ability to make a fantasy a reality, and to revel in the process at the same time. I love the fact that every time I look at my horse wearing his Horseware turnout rug, I know that my loved one's thoughtful gift helps keep my four-legged baby warm.
* Note: I published another version of this on Horse Junkies United, and then edited that piece for this post. So if you feel as if you've read it twice, that may be why.