Posters proclaiming the best gift you can give your children is roots and the runner-up, wings, adorned at least one wall in every sorority house on college campuses in the ’70s.
But as folk-rock icon Bob Dylan reemerges to growl at us now and again, the times they are a’changing. That’s true about life in general and graduation gift-giving in particular.
Parents who effused over their own graduation gifts of hard-sided luggage (it’s ba-a-a-ck) and watches with faces so tiny as to be unreadable have produced children whose hearts’ desires range from a “‘Scalade on Twinkies’” (Cadillac Escalade with 22-inch chrome rims) to aromatherapy candles (a no-no in most college housing.)
When it comes to gift giving, the plot clearly has thickened.
To help out, we queried high-school grads from the Class of 2002 forward about their favorite graduation gifts and what they wish they’d received but didn’t. We asked them to think beyond cash and outside the box.
Here’s their all-star list of gifts most likely to bring to mind the giver every time they’re used:
Impossible to ignore is the popularity of MP3 players; specifically the iPod and iPod mini ($200-$300). The 40-gigabyte iPod can store up to 10,000 songs while the mini boasts a 1,000-song capacity and lower price. For those already plugged in, a gift card to the Apple store rated high with our teens.
Trying to study over dorm din calls for noise-cancelling headphones. Opt for good ones like Bose’s QuietComfort 2 model (around $300) that weighs mere ounces and reportedly won’t give the wearers a ear/headache.
Much less expensive (around $20) is an eye mask (herb-filled, unless the wearer has allergies) that makes bearable life with a roommate who arises early or studies late.
For 364 days a year you may rant about the evils of designer-label obsession; on graduation day, however, throw in the (Frette) towel and buy your favorite grad the status item he or she covets.
The wisdom of understanding what a Burberry signature plaid tie ($100), Kate Spade handbag ($250 up) or Tiffany &Co. engraved key chain ($75 to $100) can mean to even the most well-grounded teen can’t be overstated.
The Good Book says there’s a time to leave behind childish things, but that doesn’t make it any easier to ditch T-shirts recalling monumental high-school events.
Those with sewing savvy will score major points by stitching a T-shirt quilt that’ll warm the graduate in more ways than one. Cost varies with filling and backing.
Spa services are popular with young women but often priced beyond their reach. You might not be able to afford to give a year of therapeutic skin care (around $500), but you might be able to swing a facial ($60 up) or manicure and pedicure (about $40) at a good salon in the graduate’s new domicile.
Also hotly requested were coffee cards in any denomination. Consider buying one from a popular local espresso stand or hang-out near the graduate’s new home, such as Cruisin’ Coffee in Bellingham or the Daily Grind in Pullman.
If you’re a confirmed book-giver, our teens suggested a hip city guide for their new home away from home or a collection of famous quotes or speeches.
Gift cards to the college bookstore or online textbook suppliers are a safe choice. Since time and space often are limited, our graduates said, please, no inspirational books of the “soup for the soul” variety.
The Magic Bullet blender ($60 up) seems to be the new must-have appliance for those just starting out. Most appliances, though, flunk out due to limited storage space and dishwashing facilities.
Car and bicycle accessories such as The Club anti-theft locking device (about $40) or heavy-duty bike lock ($30 up) are the proverbial ounce of prevention for those with wheels. Springing for a close-in campus parking permit is a gift that keeps on giving, especially on mornings young drivers are running late. Prices vary with the school and proximity to campus.
Weekends can be long and entertainment money scarce, so subscriptions to online movie-rental stores like Netflix or gift cards to close-in video stores are popular. Online services start at around $15 per month.
Room décor is a high priority, but also highly personal.
Consider caving in to gift cards here, but show some imagination when it comes to suppliers: posters.com or barewalls.com for the best poster selection; Target, World Market, Crate ‘n Barrel, or Anthropologie for accessories; IKEA for “starter” furniture, or a close-in hardware store for the nuts and bolts to assemble the stuff.
Just say no, implored our experts, to schmaltzy (“The World’s Your Oyster, Graduate!”) picture frames and photo albums. French bulletin boards (padded, fabric-covered ones crisscrossed with ribbons) and “white boards” for room doors (under $20) earned a thumbs-up.
In the end, the graduates surveyed unanimously believe the truism “it’s the thought that counts.”