Regardless of how early in the year one decides to start shopping for Christmas presents, one encounters more than one challenge. Other than the obvious challenge of selecting a gift looms the fact that usually no gift giver knows ahead of time what another person has chosen as a gift for that same gift recipient. This writer once witnessed first-hand how this could create a problem.
One December a man living in a Philadelphia suburb noticed that his wife desperately needed a new key carrying case. He bought her a lovely green case, one decorated with a few gold beads. Later he showed the case to his two daughters, telling them that it was a Christmas present for their mother. One of those daughters was the author of this essay.
Not long after that the girls' maternal grandmother came for a Christmas visit. She showed her two granddaughters a plain green key carrying case, and she said that it too was a Christmas present for the girls' mother. Unable to tell either of those adults about the result of their parallel shopping for Christmas, the girls just waited until the opening of gifts on Christmas day. Later they watched as their mother thanked both her husband and her mother and then judiciously used both gifts, one at a time.
Meanwhile the mother had tackled her shopping for Christmas presents with the knowledge that she would need more than one Christmas set. Because the two girls had been born just 16 months apart, and because the father refused to use hand-me-downs, the parents always needed to buy clothes in pairs when getting items for Christmas presents.
Then once they had purchased each Christmas set, they needed to anticipate that it might become a gift that is given before Christmas day. Sometimes a sudden early snow storm would force the mother to give her daughters an early Christmas present.
At times, after shopping for Christmas presents, these same Pennsylvania parents had trouble finding a place to hide them. One year they bought each girl a chair to use at the new desks that had been built into a corner of the girls' room. They decided to hide the chairs in the basement. The writer of this essay remembers seeing the chairs but never suspecting that they were a Christmas gift. In fact, this writer must confess that she never equated their presence with the fact that it was then the season for Christmas presents that needed storing.
Of course as this writer got older she came to appreciate more completely the challenges of shopping for Christmas presents. One year she did not know what to get for her mother or her girlfriend. Then her mother suggested that the friend might like padded hangers for use in the bedroom closet. This writer quickly deducted that her mother found such hangers desirable. Hence she bought two sets, one for her mother and one for her friend.
More recently this writer watched each son struggle with deciding on a Christmas present for a girlfriend. She offered no suggestions, suspecting that those girlfriends did not share her own puritanical tastes.