Dear Santa, I Really NEED a Baby Coffee Plant!

November 27, 2009

It’s Black Friday and I didn’t wait outside a store at 3 a.m. hoping to get a 79-inch television for $23.00 (Quantities limited!). Today is a tradition representing cultural acquisitiveness clothed in patriotic duty—“give a boost to the economy!”—a fiesta of bargains, filled with frantic brouhaha about how much we’ll all save if we shop early and shop smart. We’ll miss out if we don’t act now. It’s our last chance for savings, our first opportunity to buy at deeply discounted prices that may never be this low again. Plus we need this stuff! It will make our lives richer, better, and more fulfilled.

If you’re a student, you had best not be listening to these siren voices. There’s a lot of sacrifice involved in going to school unless you’re independently wealthy. Separating genuine needs from wants is a difficult business at any time, but it’s especially important when you’re in school and time and money are limited, not to mention the stress that’s added to an already stressful life by buying the unnecessary or by—horrors—adding to credit card debt that just keeps growing.

I sit here looking through one of the many shopping guides I’m inundated with in this jolly season, and I’ve compiled a very quick list of things you, they, or someone else may want, but probably doesn’t need:

Goldfish-shaped measuring spoons.

Goldfish-shaped computer mouse. (No, there’s not a theme developing here.)

Hand-grenade shaped pillows. (“The ultimate weapon for your next pillow fight.”) Guns too.

Another wind-up robot. Wait. This is definitely something I personally need. Please do not mock the wonder of metal robots, wind-up or not. They rock.

Good Dog, the barking jar for doggy treats.

Bowls. (“You can never have enough cute little bowls lying around.”) Yes. You. Can.

Cadaver ornaments. (Cadaver-shaped ornaments? Ornaments for your cadaver? It’s not clear. I must check this sometime since either is quite appealing.)

Baby onesies that make political statements. (Do you truly want to use your baby—or someone else’s—as a billboard? If so, why? This might be a fruitful area for reflection sometime.)

Baby coffee plant. There is an explanation that if given proper care, this plant may produce beans in three or four years, a long time to wait for a cuppajoe.

And then I spot it: “Give the gift of love this season.” This is a good idea I think, regardless of what holiday you’re celebrating and even if you aren’t celebrating any holiday at all, except that these folks mean that you should purchase their fancy cocktail ingredients for your friends and family. Hmmm.

If you’d like to feel virtuous in this season of endless purchasing temptation, start a list of all the things you’d like to have but are passing up because you know their satisfactions will be fleeting. Save your list. Make another next year. They’re the grown-up equivalent of letters to Santa, and when you’re done with school you’ll have a concrete reminder of all the things you passed up to accomplish your goals. And you won’t have to move the baby coffee plant that still hasn’t given you any brew.

What bargains have tempted you recently?

Oh, I wish that God had not given me what I prayed for. It was not so good as I had thought.
• Johanna Spyri, author of


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