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    In the St. Nick of Time
    Before listening to sleigh bells ringing, there’s a good chance you’ll hear:
    • “Was I supposed to get something for the assistant teacher?”
    • “I really hope everyone sticks to the $15 limit this year.”
    • “Wait, is your sister allergic to wool?”
    • “She’s in the bathroom having a meltdown -- something about backorder.”
    • “I thought I got more than this.”
    • “I left my gift for you on the kitchen table, can you believe it?” [To self: “Of course she doesn’t believe it, liar. This is just what I need -- another errand.”]
    • “Thanks for mailing all those boxes. You know, the boxes I gave you last week. The ones you said you’d mail after your office party. Where are you going?”

    No need to stress about gifts, because it’s too late to be thoughtful. That ship has sailed, been tracked and was received. What remains in stores are picked-over and full price. Oh sure, there’s always gift cards. I happen to love gift cards, but there’s really no way to make them look like an actual gift. You can try by putting them in specially-made boxes or cute felt envelopes, but there’s no masking the fact that gift cards are plastic cash. That’s why I came up with the brilliant idea of making gift cards the size of lottery checks. Legal notice: Great Big Gift Cards (GBGC ©) is the intellectual property of Jean Sorensen. Editor’s notice: the use of “intellectual” is speculative.

    Although easy for the giver and appreciated by the recipient, the diminutive size of gift cards lack drama and flare. However, multiply the size by twenty and Ta-Da! Now it’s a gift. Just picture the look on your little nephew’s face when he collapses under the size of a 3’ x 5’ Toys R Us gift card! Or the joy when Aunt Kate realizes that Macy’s GBGC © won’t fit inside her Smart Car! You may not be willing to give Ralphie a Red Ryder rifle, but how about a gift card about the same size that he can use to buy a Wii SureShot?

    Skeptics may say that current gift cards fit perfectly in stockings, but that hides the generosity behind them. Do you really want your $50 Best Buy gift card associated with $1.09 Hubba Bubba? Gift cards have no business in a Christmas stocking -- the Misfit Island for boring, everyday items that are taken for granted 364 days a year. Enjoy it while you can, Spiderman toothbrushes and gel pens, because come December 26th, you’re back in pharmacy and school supplies.

    My friend, Linda, waits until the last minute to get stocking stuffers. On Christmas Eve a few years ago, she came home from CVS, went straight to her laundry room, emptied the bags on the washer and dryer, and began filling her children’s stockings. Christmas morning, her son Alex took out a ChapStick that had gone through the wash several weeks earlier. It was the consistency of pudding and covered in lint. Also among newly purchased candy were coins, paperclips, and Bounce dryer sheets. Her kids were confused, but their stockings smelled Outdoor Fresh.

    I, on the other hand, approach stocking stuffers with nutjob seriousness. To me, they are an introduction to the main event, an indicator of what’s to come. So when my husband forgot to include the traditional can of cashews in my stocking last year, I pouted like a 49 year-old baby. The dear man got dressed, drove to the gas station, and bought me a bag of cashews that smelled like gasoline, but tasted like love. It’s the little things that make the season bright ... except for little gift cards. Brought to you by GBGC ©

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