Having trouble finding a Christmas gift for your elderly parents? Around Christmas some years ago I engaged in the annual struggle to find something for my mid-80s mom and dad who had all they needed or wanted — and not a lot of space to keep it in, having moved from their home to a retirement residence.

Step one: Remove the divider.

I came up with the wine-box stocking. Get an empty 12-bottle box from your local liquor store (they’re usually happy to get rid of them), throw out the divider and fill the carton with thoughtful little presents, each individually wrapped to ensure the fun of unwrapping. This takes some shopping: upscale chocolates, fancy soap, a book or two, a notepad and pen, gadgets from the dollar store, fancy English biscuits, little cans of gourmet food, a bottle of wine (a bit of irony never hurts) . . . the only limit is your imagination.

When you’ve filled the box, wrap it, too. My own rules, because the package had to be shipped, were: nothing fragile, nothing perishable, nothing heavy, no fruitcake (a rule best applied to all gifts, always, to everyone).

“This,” said my Dad, “reminds me of when I was a kid. Lots of great little presents to unwrap.” That’s what Christmas is all about: Being a kid again, even when you’re 85.

“Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childish days; that can recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth.”
~Charles Dickens, The Pickwick Papers, 1836