Koko’s Gift Advice

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If you ever need help picking out holiday gifts, try asking a gorilla. That’s just what I did last year. I carried a stack of gift catalogs into Koko’s building. Naturally, Koko first picked up a catalog of gourmet food gifts. Like many of us, a gorilla’s eye wanders to possibilities for herself while she looks for others. “Looking for presents?” I asked. “That apple,” Koko replied, pointing to a shiny red one on the page. “Other presents, who should they go to?” I asked. Koko scratched her head twice to sign that she was thinking very hard. Finally she had an answer. “Gorillas,” she signed. Then she pointed to a picture of some nuts. “Gorilla love there.” Next she pointed to a picture of some jam-filled cookies molded into the shape of a tree. “That do…Hurry.” I tried to rein her in with thoughts of generosity for one of Koko’s favorite people. “Anything for Ron?” Koko picked up another catalog, this one full of gadgets, and flipped through the pages rather carefully. She pointed to a picture of an indoor golf game, similar to a pool table but without the legs. “Good idea!” I said. Koko turned some more pages. She pointed to a fancy vegetable slicer. A few pages later, she gestured toward a coin sorting machine. It turned out that the gifts Koko selected for Ron were quite fitting. A golf game? Ron enjoys playing golf. A vegetable slicer? Ron was beginning to add more vegetables to his diet. A coin sorter? Ron always has big jars of coins in the house. In fact, I had gotten him a coin sorter the previous Christmas! Was the appropriateness of her selections a coincidence? Perhaps. Or perhaps she overheard Ron and me talking about his interests in the course of day-to-day conversation, and understood enough to make some solid choices. After all, with over 30 years together, Ron is one of the people Koko knows best. This last possibility reminds us that the joy of giving and receiving gifts lies not so much in the gifts themselves, but in the way they recognize who we are and what we like. Penny