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Holiday Gift Cards

Christmas Coffee

Our family holiday season begins with our Dec. 18 wedding anniversary and continues until New Year’s Day. Two weeks of slowing down, eating more traditional food, reading, reviewing the past, writing, and planning.

2019 was a difficult year. It was a pivotal year. It was a year of coming to terms. There were gift cards.

The first gift card came from the home, farm and auto supply store in the amount of $125. Receiving a gift card in lieu of a salary bonus is a leftover from when the family that founded the retail chain was more involved. The founder’s son continues to make rounds of the stores and knows me by name. He sent a personal birthday card with some bad information about how long I’d been employed. It’s the thought that matters. They also provide a paid holiday on our birthday which in my case falls during this end of year period. I made it to age 68!

The second gift card was re-purposed by my spouse. She spent the $100 gift on herself, but didn’t use the card. She gave it to me and I considered it a welcome birthday present since it was the only one.

Where does one spend this kind of gifted money? At grocery, hardware and other retail stores mostly.

Major purchases included some premium bay leaves ($8.99), a fifth of Jack Daniels No. 7 ($27.55), a Craftsman screwdriver set ($29.67), a 24-bottle case of Stella Artois ($26.63) and a set of storage bins for garden seeds ($29.67). I also got a bottle each of low-dose aspirin and B-12 at the pharmacy, jars of organic seasonings clearanced at the home, farm and auto supply store, some Boetje’s mustard (a local specialty that used to be made in Rock Island, Ill.), a package of roasted chestnuts for New Year’s Eve, and a new Craftsman box cutter to place near the recycling bin. We’re lucky to be able to afford these luxuries.

We received a screwdriver set from the best man at our wedding. Some of them had gone missing over 37 years. It was a purchase of hope as in I hope to spend more time organizing the workspace in the garage and shedding some of the duplicated and unnecessary tools accumulated at dozens of household and farm auctions. Something just feels good about having new tools. They match the ones we got as a wedding present exactly.

The price of the whisky was shocking as I hadn’t bought any for more than a decade. A recent newspaper survey showed Iowans prefer cheaper varieties like Black Velvet Whisky and Hawkeye Vodka. I don’t drink spirits very often and the gift cards were the reason I even considered getting a bottle, it’s like free money and Jack Daniels is a personal holiday tradition. Besides, the local small batch spirits were too expensive at $50 for a fifth.

I bought the beer at the wholesale club, another luxury. My favorite is Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, which my father preferred. PBR is not available there. The plan is to drink a bottle when we have pizza or chili for dinner while reminiscing about my several trips to Belgium. The case should last into spring. At that time my memories will likely be worn out and I’ll get a case of something else to ice down in a cooler for after yard work. Had it not been for the gift cards I would likely have gone without beer at home until summer.

The bins for seeds were an impulse purchase. I examined them and found there was enough space in each drawer for the packets to lay flat. It will go a long way to clean up the workspace where I sort seeds for my weekly planting sessions at the greenhouse. Now the bins need to be labeled so I know what’s in them. More work to do this holiday season.

No one got rich off my shopping spree. I feel better for the fun of unexpected shopping. Whatever anxiety I had about whether the gift cards would work was offset by the adventure in spending them. It was just enough of our consumer society to recall what it is and sate my desire to shop. That done, I can better consider what 2020 will bring.