Jake Old: My all-time favorite gift for Christmas

Dec. 21, 2013 @ 11:30 PM

This Christmas will mark the four-year anniversary of the greatest Christmas gift I ever received. And that part cannot be stressed enough: my greatest gift. Maybe not yours.

Because I’m sure some people will read this whose eyes will be rolling so feverishly that they might just fall out of their head. But the gift took much thought and planning, and it stands the test of time – all marks of a truly great gift.

In 2009, I was a wayward young musician, and I probably took my guitar playing a little too seriously. I was in my second year of college, but I devoted every moment of free time to honing my musical talents and worshiping my “guitar god” idols. This was much to the chagrin of my then-girlfriend, who, I speculated at the time, had a bit of guitar-jealousy. Perhaps even a little jealousy for the musicians I constantly talked about.

So when Christmas came around, I was scrambling in full “appease your girlfriend before she realizes that she can do much better than you” mode, and we’ve all been there. I decided that I would go all out and get her the best gift I could think of.

Apparently someone in her family lineage, I think it was a great-grandfather or something of that sort, was a world-class banjo player. I believe she probably had some important early childhood memories of hearing him shred on the five-stringed bluegrass instrument. That, along with outright fascination with the sound of the instrument, made her completely infatuated with it as a young adult.

Although she played instruments in the high school band, she didn’t consider herself a musician (strange, I know). So she never made the plunge to buy a banjo to try her hand at it.

The banjo alone would have made for a fantastic Christmas gift, particularly given the situation. But I decided to go a little bit further over the top. I wrote a book of poems for her and had it printed in a hardcover book. And I threw in a CD of sappy love songs I had written for her. I was pretty confident this gift would not be bested any time soon.

A couple of weeks before Christmas, it was announced that one of my idols, Eric Clapton, would perform in Nashville later that spring. Tickets were on sale, and they were expected to sell out before too long.

I was wrestling with myself — if I just took the banjo out of this gift I had put so much time into planning, I would have money to buy the tickets. I even started to talk myself into the idea that I could frame it as a date-night sort of thing, and just swap the tickets in place of the banjo. Clearly a terrible idea.

In the end, I decided that Clapton wasn’t that important. After all, there would probably be future opportunities to see him, right?

When the time came to exchange Christmas gifts, she was ecstatic. My original plan succeeded. I’m pretty sure that gift still stands as at least a top five for her. It’s on the Mount Rushmore of Christmas gifts for her. First ballot hall-of-famer, for sure.

And then she dropped the bombshell: she bought the Eric Clapton tickets. I spent so much time trying to go for the greatest gift of all time, and I was immediately bested. Although I obviously didn’t mind.

Given the context of the situation, this gift still stands as probably my favorite Christmas gift I’ve ever received. It blindsided me – although, in hindsight, it was probably obvious. I remember her asking me if I was going to get those tickets, a dead giveaway.

So now it’s in writing. Here you go, all current and future friends, all family and loved ones. The gold standard. Try to outdo it. Knock yourselves out.

The lesson is, as always, if you put thought and elaborate planning into a Christmas gift, you will be rewarded with tickets to an Eric Clapton concert.

Jake Old is a reporter for The Mountain Press. Call 428-0748, ext. 214, or email jold@themountainpress.com.