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By Bill Mead
contributing writer 

Putting the lid on Santa Claus

The Overall Picture


November 18, 2023

Bill Mead, Columnist Emeritus.

Today, We Honor The Overall Man Classic Bill MeadReprinted with permission.

I have put aside my efforts to close the ozone hole to deal with a more urgent problem. My wife says we must decide how much stuff we can give our grandkids without spoiling them.

You whippersnappers who lack third-generation progeny have no inkling how weighty this matter is. Like managing the national debt, it is a question with no good answers-only bad ones and worse ones.

As Grandma and Grandpa see it, doling out presents on every occasion is a bad answer. Enduring childish looks of disappointment when the old folks return from a trip empty-handed is worse.

Through the eyes of our daughters, our perennial Santa Claus act is turning their little ones into pint-sized extortionists who then turn their wiles on Mom and Dad. We have been ordered to set parameters, as they say in trendy circles, to contain this munchkin version of the welfare state.

That is a lot easier said than done. Last Sunday Grandma took the eldest grandson to the market after sternly admonishing him that there would be no begging for playthings. Upon their return the little guy had a fistful of baseball cards and a triumphant expression. Not wishing to turn the sabbath into another day of infamy I refrained from asking what happened.

Truthfully, I have no room to talk. The grandkids know I am an endless supply of quarters for electronic games. In restaurants I'm the one who lets them order three times as much as they can eat. On traditional gifting occasions, guess who insists on upgrading merchandise being considered by Grandma.

While finding a satisfactory middle ground in this controversy is difficult I do not believe it is impossible. Already we have made some headway. For instance, we agree that big presents shall be restricted to Christmas, and birthdays. The parents don't dare hobble us at those times. Also, we are unanimous that lesser gifts are appropriate on Valentine's Day, Easter, Halloween and whenever we find acceptable marks on their report cards or wish to recognize other outstanding feats.

We are hung up about when it's kosher to bring mementos of the grandparent's travels, which occur frequently.

We thought first of a mileage limit. It's always easy to deal with unyielding numbers. Perhaps no gifts should be allowed when we rack up fewer than 200 miles, round trip. Then we considered not bringing rewards from trips of less then four days.

My wife quickly detected a flaw in those proposals. Neither took into account the likelihood of finding things the kids like. Not all gift shops are created equal and those close to home might have a better selection of stuff for kids than others a lot farther away.

As you can see, our guidelines concerning travel related gifts are still a work in progress. Still, it's a step in the right direction that we have promised each other we will not bring junk to the grandchildren from any trip that covers less than 15 miles unless, of course, we find something closer that is really neat.

This is a tough stand but the little ones have to learn about rules.

If you don't know Bill: Bill Mead was the longtime publisher of the Tehachapi News, along with Betty Mead, his wife and partner of more than 50 years. Known for his keen wit, which could be gentle or scathing or somewhere in between but was often self-deprecatory, Bill's writing won him a wide following among News readers. His column "The Overall Picture" ran in the News for more than 25 years, and in 1999 he published a collection of his columns in a volume entitled The Napa Valley Outhouse War. His book is currently available for sale at the Tehachapi Museum for $10.

Bill had a remarkable mind and because of his intelligence, humor and appearance he was regarded by many as Tehachapi's Mark Twain. As Betty used to remind him, he was "older than the oldest Model A Ford" and his wealth of life experiences and rural upbringing allowed him to bring a thoroughly American, 20th century perspective to his reflections and musings on the everyday. Bill passed away in 2008 but his writing lives on.


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