San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas
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December 10th, 2008
The Devil’s Clack Dish: Gift getting made easy

The Devil’s Clack Dish: A Column
By HAP MANSFIELD
Scene Editor

It was a dark, windy night long ago, the kind of night when it sounds like all sorts of strange and eerie creatures are stumbling along on the roof, hanging from the eaves of the house and rustling in the closets. The high, lonesome whistle of a train pierced the air as I got up to investigate what was causing the odd bumping sound in the hall closet.

Slowly, I opened the door just as a train rattled down the tracks, shivering the hangers in the closet, animating the coats and sweaters on their hangers in a macabre shaking dance. Suddenly, I was hit on the head by someone or something, another blow landed on my shoulder, yet another on my neck. I turned to face my assailant and beheld the ghosts of Christmas past – a salad shooter, a Bedazzler and a Chia pet, all still in their boxes.

The horror. The horror.

I don’t say that it was then that it happened, but this certainly reinforced my conviction that I needed a plan to avoid more well intentioned but completely useless gifts given to me at Christmas. I was not ungrateful, because we all know it’s the thought that counts, but these “thoughts” were taking up closet space and haunting me.

I had the curse of being a difficult person for whom to find a present. I needed to find a way to break that curse. Like a miracle, it later came to me from an off-hand comment I made at work.

At a pre-Christmas business meeting, a co-worker made the comment when talking about her romantic woes, “Well, I guess before you meet your handsome prince, you have to kiss a lot of frogs.” I laughed but asked, “What’s wrong with frogs? Who wants a vain, spoiled prince? Nope, I’ll take a frog any day.”

You can imagine what I got for Christmas that year. Frogs. Lots of frogs. Frogs on socks, frog figurines, frog pins. Everybody went mad with the frog theme. Happily enough, I liked them. And every Christmas since that time has been a festival of froggy knick-knacks, sweatshirts, calendars and books. I love them all.

My sister-in-law has become an expert at finding frogs at craft bazaars and thrift stores and delights in my happy reaction to her purchases. My frog collection has grown to include the occasional turtle or lizard from folks who do not know their reptiles from their amphibians but are giving it a good-hearted effort. No matter, I love all the gifts and the givers who tried.

If you are the “hard-to-buy-for” person in your family I cannot more heartily recommend to you to start some sort of collection. It should be something you like and something that is affordable. I don’t suppose you will get much more than frustration and jeers if you announce to your family and friends that you are collecting Rolexes or diamonds.

Collecting some small thing that you genuinely like will solve many a gift-giving dilemma and, in fact, give the giver pleasure in the search for the item. I believe my sister-in-law enjoys “the hunt” as much as I like the gift. Frogs are pretty easily found. Now that you’ve read this, I daresay you’ll run into a few frogs as you are Christmas shopping.

It’s important that your collection isn’t so odd that it breeds frustration in the giver. If you decide to collect things that feature the Vancouver Island Marmot or the Northern Hairy-Nosed Wombat, don’t be surprised to find a PedEgg or a ShamWow under the Christmas tree.

I have never received an unused Christmas present since my collection got its start. The picture is a just a small fraction of my happy froggy collection.

Of course, if they make a frog-shaped salad shooter, I’m back in trouble.

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