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DECEMBER 2006


Dear Readers

It's the holidays. And many of you write me, Madrone, tell us what to do about all these thingamajigs that everyone has to have. Phones take pictures and our hair dryers are also good for making bread. What's going on, the world is going crazy. How can we buy something for anyone when we don't know what the thing is called let alone what it's good for. Help us we implore you Madrone, take pity on us!! We're 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 don't care what religion you are. No really, I don't. That's your business, and please, leave me out of it. This is about family. Get that straight, and we'll all be happier. And please don't write me about it, I'm just throwing the letter in the garbage. Guarantee.

1. Kids under five: the gift isn't for the kid, please. It's all about you sending a message to the parents about where they stand with you. And expensive can mean love, don't fool yourself with all that priceless crapola.

2. 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, there's a lot of ways to be a Louie and the way you're going, you should think twice.

3. Kids between 12 and 18: There's not much anyone can give these kids, their happiness depends on things that don't get wrapped easily. You can't 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 doesn't matter. If their parents raised them right, they'll smile and hug you whatever. In future years, they won't remember what you gave them anyhow, just that you did.

4. 18-30; an envelope does the best. Cash, check, whatever.

5. Over thirty- Your grown kids, your aging parents, siblings and spouse all can rightfully expect a token of some kind, but you don't have to knock yourself out. At this point in most people's lives they appreciate things they don't 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.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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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