My sweetie mailed an inspirational coffee mug to our son, overseas on a job. He wasn't inspired.
''Mom, I've been here eight months. Why would I not already have a coffee cup? What were you thinking?''
What she was thinking was, ''Oh, what a sweet encouragement. It will let my little boy know how much I love him.''
That's what she thought. Because it was a thoughtful gift.
But he's geared toward practical gifts. And practicality says, ''Just great, more junk I don't need, don't understand, and have no room to keep. How come she never sends cashews?''
All I can say is it's a good thing she hadn't yet sent the stuffed doggy holding a plush heart.
Thoughtful gifts confuse me, and a lot of other guys I know. We will study a wall hanging elaborately stitched with a very personalized verse meant to evoke a warm and tender heart toward the giver.
What the person who gives thoughtful gifts doesn't understand is that the emotions tend toward, ''I wanted a two-speed, 20-volt lithium-ion cordless driver with titanium drill bit set. How am I supposed to build anything with this?''
We want practical gifts. Useful gifts. Gifts with horsepower.
The practical gift generally has no sentimental value. You will use this thing until it falls apart. When it does, you know you need a replacement, but you're left scratching your head as you desperately try to remember who gave it to you.
Sometimes it's difficult to know the difference.
When I was a boy, mom gave me socks. What a dirty, rotten trick for a Christmas present. Coal would have been more useful. At least I could threaten my siblings with a nice, solid hunk of coal. But socks?
By my calculations, practical Christmas gifts should have been about Johnny West and GI Joe action figures, Whizzzers, Creepy Crawlers, or, at the very least, Play-Doh.
A couple birthdays ago, Mom was up to her old tricks. She gave me a bundle of socks. I couldn't have been happier. Forty-five years had changed my perspective. Also, my sock size.
My daughter also gave me Play-Doh, which still thrills me after all these years. I'd lost some of my fervor for Johnny West.
Plus, socks avoid that other category of giving, the expensive gift.
I have little knowledge of expensive gifts. I grew up in a family whose wallets didn't believe in expensive gifts. I grew up in the for-five-dollars-you-can-wear-them-shoes kind of family.
If you had enough money to be buying expensive gifts, you probably should have bought a new pressure cooker instead so you could can more green beans from the garden you should be growing.
Some people accidentally on purpose leave the price tags of expensive gifts in the box just to make sure the receiver knows you spent a lot of money on them. We left the sales tags in the boxes to prove that we didn't.
My wife doesn't understand this. She just thinks I'm cheap. OK, I am. But there's a reason: It's neither the thought nor price tag that counts, it's the practicality.
But in case you disagree, let me just say that I would be happy to consider a gift of a Corvette Stingray as practical. How thoughtful of you.
---- Send thoughts to Cole at firstname.lastname@example.org or to the Burton W. Cole page on Facebook.