I gave my wife a goat

Jeff vonKaenel

There are people who love gift giving. I am not one of them. For me, the idea of spending a day shopping for presents is about as pleasurable as going to the dentist to have my teeth drilled. Maybe not even, given the advances in modern-day Novocain.

What’s more, I am a horrible, horrible gift buyer. Whatever part of the brain it is that enables one to match up a loved one with the appropriate material item in the right price range, I do not have it.

My experience in giving gifts would be great practice for being a director hiring actors. It’s an opportunity to see people’s acting skill in a difficult role, unwrapping my gift.

I’m not much better at receiving gifts. I already have everything I need. In fact, I’d prefer that my friends came to my house and took something out. One Christmas, my son gave me a lovely foot massager. The rest of my family all had big, somewhat odd grins. I had forgotten my son had given me the same foot massager the previous Christmas. He’d simply taken the unopened box out of the closet and re-wrapped it. At least I was able to provide a little holiday entertainment for my family.

I do try to find good gifts. But in the 32 years that my wife Deborah and I have been together, I’ve never had the “diamond ad” moment.

I am sure you know what I mean. The man presents his prospective bride/wonderful wife with an expensive diamond. The woman tears up and gives him the look. You know, the look that says, “Let’s have sex right now. I know that we are in a crowded restaurant, but I believe the table is sturdy enough.”

If I ever forked over a few thousand dollars on a diamond, I would have heard a different response, something like, “You moron! How are we going to get our kids through college if you waste our money on compressed carbon?”

On the afternoon of December 23 last year, a bit earlier than I usually do my holiday shopping, I asked editor Melinda Welsh for advice about a gift for Deborah. We have worked with Melinda for 20-plus years, so she knows us both pretty well.

And Melinda came to my rescue. She told me how her family gives money to nonprofits as gifts for each other. I liked this idea. So … I bought my wife a goat. The goat would actually be given to a family in Africa who could survive, and possibly even thrive, if they had a goat.

And I wrote her a card saying, “One of the reasons that I love you so much is I know how much you will like this goat.” Deborah was touched. Tears came to her eyes. For the first time in 32 years, I found the perfect gift for my wonderful wife.

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About the Author

Jeff vonKaenel
Jeff vonKaenel is the president, CEO and majority owner of the News & Review newspapers in Sacramento, Chico and Reno.