What have I given my father for most of the last twenty Christmas holidays, along with some other small, more personal gifts strewn over the years? Tennis balls.
It's like buying socks and underwear for kids (circa 1964) - you know they need it, but do they truly want or appreciate such for a Christmas gift? This ranks a close second behind getting coal in their stocking.
Well, after a decade or so of never inquiring as to what my family wanted, for which I had a lot more fun just giving fun or unique gifts, the dreaded, but more sane drawing-of-names routine became reality.
With all the associations via marriage and the off-spring born from such relationships, this made sense. We middle-generation whatevers are tasked with giving gifts to our juniors and our seniors. We drew names for gifts (later, simply giving greeting cards) with our siblings and focused on the youngest and oldest of the flock. Actually, I believe our elders couldn't care less about the gift-receiving aspect of the holiday, yet the other aspects of Christmas are never lost on them.
Nor by us, or our family. You will be hard put to find a more dysfunctional family which still spends time together and communicates with one another. No one's been black-listed or banished, yet. Perhaps we are simply oddly-functional.
So, my father, who doesn't necessarily have everything, but wants for nothing, would always warn or deter us from giving him any clothing or anything personal, making it quite clear that anything tennis was okay, i.e. tennis balls. Or more explicitly, tennis balls!
Okay, after a while I found this nothing but boring as a Christmas gift, but we were relegated to tennis (ball) gifts and selecting a tennis racket was far more personal than socks and underwear for my father.
About ten years ago, when he was all of 75 years old, I began to purchase him tennis lessons from a pro at our club - booyah, a tennis gift beyond the yellow fuzzy orb. He quickly took advantage of these, well, as soon as the weather was more comfortable.
A few years ago, a few days before Christmas, when about any case of tennis balls could be found most anywhere, from a sporting goods or big-box store, to the Internet, my sister who is fit and athletic, but plays no tennis, called me (frustrated from the played-out tennis ball scenario) about some tennis lessons for my father. The teaching tennis pro he enjoyed so much hadn't left the country or been abducted by terrorists, but he was difficult to find. I ended up promising the lessons to her, she had gift certificates printed and I had to track down the pro after the holidays.
Fortunately I found him and we arranged the sessions - another Christmas saved. Yet, why aren't more teaching pros, particularly those not attached to a club, not making the giving of tennis lessons easier? How about making the process easier and more attractive? How about making some extra revenue, teaching pro?
Mailing or handing someone cash or a check on Christmas day and saying, "Merry Christmas, this is for some tennis lessons." is not the same as handing them a well prepared gift certificate from a pro or club.
If your favorite teaching pro doesn't already do such, ask them to do so. It's not as if their running a business. Yeah, right? If you don't have a strong preference for a tennis pro, then find one who offers gift certificates and makes the process and giving experience more fun.
If you are a teaching tennis pro, please see Making Tennis Gift Giving Easier.