Virgin's Guide to Burning Man

A Virgin's Guide to Burning Man can be found here.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

What Do You Give a Father Who Doesn't Want Anything?

At the risk of sounding like a curmudgeon, I must confess Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, and Father's Day are all among my least favorite holidays. I love giving gifts spontaneously, just because I saw something that reminded me of someone, or because I hit a fit of gratitude and wanted to shower someone with love. Birthdays are great because you are really celebrating a day that is special in a person's life, celebrating the fact that they are alive and a part of your world.

But these holidays are just random days some bureaucrat picked off a calendar and decided the whole nation should be obliged to observe. And I am not a fan of obligatory gifts; both as a giver and as a receiver. It feels to me like these holidays supposedly meant to be a special day to show someone you appreciate them are really only contrived routines perpetuated by an industry playing on people's guilt feelings and celebrated by people who appreciate their loved ones all year long, and thus do not need a special day. The ones who don't, forget or don't even bother.

For me, gifts for my parents are also always the hardest. It's not because I don't love them or that I don't want to celebrate them and show them they are appreciated. I call them on the phone regularly, sharing our life stories. I drive down to visit often, and I consider their needs whenever I make important decisions. And when we are together, I love to do things for them and spend time with them. We show our love in shared moments, not in a collection of "#1 Dad" trinkets.

My parents are getting older. They don't want or need things, and especially not cutsy knickknacks. The stuff they do have, they're really selective about. So as a daughter, my range of gift-giving possibilities for my dad on Father's Day is quite limited. And really there are only so many Borders gift cards, wine and cheese baskets, and gift certificates to "a dinner with your loving daughter" one can give before the whole idea grows stale.

Life was much simpler when I was 10 and I could just paint my dad a rainbow and write a card in crayon, where the color of each letter in "I love you" was painstakingly selected. Because really, everything that needed to be said was contained in that little piece of crayola and construction paper.


  1. This year I made my stepdad a photobook on shuttefly. It turned out great, so I'm pretty excited about it.

  2. That's great! I'm sure he'll love it!

  3. How about a grandkid? I keed....

  4. Hah! Awesome approximately 3-5 years from now. :)


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