Give me … a break

chaseI’m a firm believer in the philosophy that it’s better to give than receive – unless, of course, someone has a three-figure gift card to Bass Pro Shops or Guitar Center with my name on it. I’d happily take something like that off your hands, thank you very much. Other than that, I get considerably more joy from giving gifts than I do from getting them.

For me, this season of bags, boxes, wrapping paper, sticky bows, curly ribbons, tape and labels triggers some sort of primal urge to search for that extra special something for the extra special someones on my list.

I used to pace in circles around our mailbox, waiting for the mountains of catalogs to arrive. Unfortunately, our mail carrier was easily identified by the back, elbow and wrist braces he wore this time of year. Such was the serious poundage of glossy pages delivered in the months before Christmas.

Then came the Internet (thank you, Al Gore) and those super websites of cyber shopping and free shipping. In fact, I wouldn’t be that surprised to learn that has a statue of me in their corporate lobby. Our UPS driver, Tony, is considering naming his next kid after me. (Just kidding, Mrs. Tony.) In all seriousness, though, I do love giving gifts. It’s not for nothing that, way back when, I was the guy in the Santa suit at the old Shakey’s Pizza Parlor on Foothill.

I wasn’t always like this. As a kid I loved being the recipient of gifts. I could always be counted on to have the longest, most detailed Christmas list. The annual Sears Wish Book was my Bible back then. I would underline the prices and catalog numbers of my favorite items, dog-ear the appropriate pages, and then leave the catalog somewhere my parents were sure to trip over it and see that John Gnagy “Learn To Draw Animals” set I couldn’t live without. Or the candy apple red Schwinn Sting-Ray bike with the ape-hanger handle bars, black quilted banana seat and rear cheater slick tire. Suh-weet.

Apparently, my love of gift giving was not inherited. At least, not from my Dad. Being an engineer, he was all about logic, practicality and function. So much so, that my siblings and I could count on opening at least one present that was likely to be JC Penny TownCraft underwear or tube socks. Don we now, our gay apparel, indeed.

Dad would also turn Christmas morning into his own frustrating game by not opening presents until he could guess what was inside. Gotta love those engineers – and learn to beat them at their own game. Which is why, one year, a sibling (or maybe it was me, I’ll never tell) gift wrapped a box with nothing but gravel and newspaper inside. To watch Dad shake and think, and listen and ponder, and measure, and think some more – was like putting peanut butter on the roof of a dog’s mouth. Priceless. After Christmas, Dad’s “present” sat unopened, all by itself under the tree for days. I honestly don’t remember if he ever did open it.

Maybe it was the trauma of getting 3-packs of tighty whitey briefs, but at some point I realized that giving gifts was far more enjoyable than getting them. I remember while still in elementary school, I walked from our home near Two Strike Park all the way down Rosemont Avenue to the shopping center on Foothill, my pockets jingling with allowance money. I’d search the shelves at Nahas department store for just the right tacky candle or bargain-priced perfume for Mom, then walk next door to shop for Dad’s present at Builder’s Emporium. Oh, what fun it was.

Next week’s edition of the CV Weekly will be on your driveway on Christmas Eve. Hopefully, I’ll have all of this year’s shopping done by then. After all, free shipping doesn’t end until tomorrow!

I’ll see you ‘round town.

Jim Chase is a lifelong CV resident and freelance writer. He can be reached at