By Marissa Maier
A few weeks ago a couple of friends and I stood on a New York City subway platform waiting for a train. As we shook the cold from our hands and feet, we collectively lamented the weather and — as the season is upon us — buying Christmas presents.
We didn’t consider ourselves Scrooges. In fact, listening to Nat King Cole’s “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” never fails to bring me close to tears. Nor did we demonize the commercialism of the holidays. Instead, we regretted our own track record of gift giving.
There was the year I gave my mother a pretty heinous-looking pleather bag in a color somewhere between sand and mud. Or the year in college, when my cash strapped friend made a last-minute series of drawings of fruit for her entire family. We always seemed to wish that our gifts were a bit more personal, more interesting or at least better planned.
So it came as a surprise that as I was doing research for this story on holiday stocking stuffers I discovered Sag Harbor holds the key to gift giving success. The village is a bazaar of perfect and well priced presents for any taste. Village purveyors have waded through the noise of products available online to present the best of the best to their shoppers. And employees for the most part are happy to share their expertise.
In this search, I had two main criteria: the gift had to fit in a stocking and must be reasonably priced. The recipients of these presents were the usual suspects: my mother, her boyfriend Dave O, and my teenage brothers Forrest and Theo, ages 18 and 13 respectively.
For my mother, I knew my gifts had to appeal to her fashionable side as well as her cerebral interests and day-to-day needs. From jewelry to lingerie, Satori is a great “one stop” shop. There I found my mother a soft, woolly Wooden Ships beret in grey ($28) and a pair of their crocheted fingerless gloves in deep cherry ($35). The Pacifica line of perfumes, available in roll-on ($14) or solid ($10) form, were recommended by the shopkeepers. Although the prices at Illusions tend to run a bit high, I stumbled upon a pair of snowflake-shaped earrings ($30) by Marilyn Schiff.
One bad habit of my mother’s is to write down her to do list on whatever scrap of paper is lying around. In an attempt to break her of this habit, or at least help her shape what promises to be a whirlwind year, I found an At-A-Glance 2011 pocket agenda at the Ideal. Over the last few years, she has developed a taste for crossword puzzles and at BookHampton I discovered a book of 100 “New York Times” crossword puzzles ($5.99). To enhance her morning ritual, I would give my mother a half-a-pound each of Sumatra Mandheling and Ethiopian Yirgacheffe ($6.50 and $6.00), which I am told are the most popular blends at Java Nation.
Dave O would no doubt share in this last present, but for him I have to cater to his unfathomable and bottomless love for his grill and smoker as well as his artistic inclinations. In the last few months he has become a “smoking” aficionado. From pork to lemon and fruit, nothing is too delicate to go into his smoker. As he is now dabbling in smoking fish, I would gift him “A Field Guide to Seafood” ($15.95) from BookHampton. I would throw in a Jumbo Pumice ($7.49), which the guys at Emporium True Value promised was one of the best tools in cleaning a grill.
When he isn’t sating his culinary fevers, Dave O is a builder and artist. A Canson sketchbook ($9.20) from the Ideal would help him work through new ideas. As a lover of design and art, I think Dave O would appreciate the Mighty Wallet ($15) made from a single sheet of recyclable strong microfiber material, available at the Kites of Sag Harbor or more informally the Kite Shop. The one I selected for Dave O is decorated with small Campbell soup cans in a nod to Andy Warhol.
My brother Forrest tends to either ask for nothing or one big present making him difficult to shop for. When I saw the Keith Richard’s “Life” book on CD ($34.98) at BookHampton I immediately thought of him. Not only is Forrest a guitar player, he is a fan of listening to the radio while falling asleep. He is also in the practice of burning incense in his bedroom and I found a wide selection of them at Flashbacks (10 sticks for $1 or $1.50 to $1.75 for a pack). Forrest is always expounding upon scientific theories and I think he would appreciate the Einsteinian Relativity watch ($34.99) where the hands of times and the numbers all move clockwise.
Theo, my sports driven teenage brother, is one of the easier people to buy for in my family. He would cherish a pair of stylized Skullcandy headphones ($29.95) and a Power Balance bracelet ($29.99), favored by athletes for its ability to steady them through the power of a hologram, both are found at Flying Point Surf & Sport. In an effort to cultivate his other interests, I would also pick up a copy of S.E. Hinton’s “That Was Then This Is Now” ($9.99) at BookHampton. Theo told me he recently enjoyed reading Hinton’s “The Outsiders” for school.
In coming up with this short list of stocking stuffers for my family I realized that these small presents are one of the better parts of the holiday. Each are a token of your affection and testament to your knowledge of that person. Each are a small and simple luxury. And each Christmas, despite my 24 years, I am surprised by what I find when I go fishing at the bottom of my stocking.