I’m sitting here with a mimosa slushy and thinking about things. I’ll be the first to admit that the mimosa is probably adding to my tendency to pontificate on the inane, but whatever. They are mind-enhancing things, these mimosa slushies. However, the basis of my heavy thinking is caused more by this time of year I often feel is more the “Time of Giving and Getting” than “Christmas”.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I am a fan of giving and getting. Not all things, mind you. The flu, gonorrhea, being audited, headaches…the list of things I don’t want to get is plenty long. But in the context of holidays and celebrations, I’m all for it. Not to excess or as a means to “buy” someone’s affections, but I can get into presents just as much as the next hedonist/capitalist/coveter of stuff. And I love that my kids, especially Biggest is a really good gift giver. But there is a whole aspect to gift giving that makes me break-out into one of those ladylike sheens and worry.
What if they don’t like it?
And I am not alone in the line of folks worried about the reception of gifts. After all, there is nothing quite as disheartening as the return line on December 26th — so many gifts, so many returns.
So, as I pause for another sip of slushy, this one more mimosa than juice, I let myself think about gifts. About the giving and getting of gifts. And why we give and get and what the whole shebang means.
Gift giving is hard for me in that I am a consummate worrier. If I get this tee-shirt, will it shrink? Do I go up a size because it looks more like an “athletic cut” than usual and we all know there is abso-freak-aluting nothing worse than receiving a clothing gift that makes a person look like a runaway Jimmy Dean sausage. Or what if the receiver of the gift no longer likes football player “x” thus making this autographed football jersey a cruel reminder of so many crushed Superbowl dreams? And what about price? After all, if I give a gift with an inherent dollar amount, what if the receiver deems it too cheap in comparison to their gift and vise versa? Oh dear, more mimosa needed and stat!
In addition to worrying about the reception of gifts, there is the whole appropriateness of gifts. In a film I quite enjoyed, Working Girl, Melonie Griffith’s character asks her boyfriend for a gift she “could actually wear outside of this apartment?” and all the women in the theater joined me in giggling over that line. Why? Because sometimes what a person really wants is what they are never, ever going to get. And I’m not just talking about sweaters versus g-strings. I’m talking about the gifts that seem completely disconnected to the receiver’s interests or the situation at hand.
My own classic experiences in that department revolve around my grandmother, who bless her heart, knew nothing about me in spite of my having grown-up across the street from her. When I was about 10 or so, her Christmas gift to me was a pair of those frilly over-pants that one puts on a toddler to hide a diaper. Yes, I was pretty thin back then, but that was ridiculous. Of course, she also gave me the wedding gift extraordinaire: a large box filled to the rim with cast-offs from her own life. It was like she opened all her cupboards and took out all the stuff she had no use for. For example, she sent Mister Soandso and I a single towel-and-wash-cloth set. I suppose I could look back on it as her hoping for lots of joint showering, but since the monogram on the blue towel matches no one I know and the brown wash cloth was frayed, I’m thinking not. In addition to the lidless sauté pan with the Wonderbread wrapper still melted to the side, there was a whole assortment of stuff in there that she mailed off to me and then proceeded to phone me at 5:30 in the am to see if it had arrived. Let me tell you, I was overjoyed to let her know 18 phone calls later that her $43 dollars in postage gift had arrived and I was thrilled to receive it. It wasn’t all a lie. It did (and has continued) to give me a great story to tell as well as a great ice scraper. But really??? I wasn’t just starting out in a bedraggled studio apartment a week after high school graduation. This was a wedding gift. No matter how much the Great Depression must have scarred her, surely she knew that simply the handmade quilt, cut from her cast-off polyester pantsuits and backed with a cotton-poly blend sheet was a far more appropriate wedding gift.
Now that I’m onto my third mimosa slushy, I am reminded yet again of the “other” level of gift appropriateness. You know what I mean. How every gift-giving-mecca tries to convince the shoppers of this world that there are “pink” gifts and “blue” gifts and that what everybody secretly hopes for has a 23-foot red-ribboned bow attached to its roof. Some of my very favorite gifts from my husband his guy friends are shocked he gave to me. “What?!?!?! You gave her kitchen knives for Christmas?” “Pots and pans for her 40th birthday?????” “A sauté pan? Are you nuts?” This year I was blessed to unwrap a Cuisinart on Christmas morning. And no, I will not be holding sex hostage for three months. In fact, in our house, household appliances may be the perfect marital aid. Why? Because Mister Soandso listens to me. And he knows me.
He knows what I like and what makes me happy as well as what frustrates me. And these days of needing to bake gluten-free, an $8 hand-held mixer ain’t cutting it. What this baker needs is a food processor. Mister Soandso knows I would never in a million years buy myself something this expensive (just like my professional grade knives or sauté pans or whatever) and that having a high-end tool will make a job I enjoy doing all that much more pleasurable.
After all, who was the idiot who decreed that only folks with a penis like tools? If a guy would get happy to unwrap a gadget that makes a task easier, why on earth wouldn’t a gal? Exactly. I think the marketing folks of this world have missed the boat on this one, assigning sexual-orientation-based-appropriateness to things. After all, it doesn’t matter who uses the gadget, just that the gadget is something the receiver would like.
And this all brings me to the crux of the matter. Giving gifts requires you to really know the person you are giving gifts to. But what if you don’t? I’m not talking about giving a gift to the Giving Tree down at the mall. I’m talking about really knowing the person you give gifts to. It takes time and patience and listening. And sometime, no matter how much thought and effort and hope goes into the giving of a gift, the getting of the gift doesn’t turn out quite like we wanted it to.
When my youngest sister was little, we got her a beautiful plush teddy bear. It was chocolate brown and had shiny eyes and a bow around its neck and every other do-dad one thinks will make a little person thrilled. And this was a young person who liked plush stuffed animals. A win, right? Nope. Not quite.
My mother is a saver of all things (more Depression-era side effects in action). So when the time came to wrap up that gorgeously cuddly teddy bear, she went out to the storage shed and found a box. A toaster box to be exact. Into the box went the teddy bear and I wrapped it up with bright paper and a shiny bow.
And my sister went about opening it. Rip! went the paper. Rotating the box, her eyes lit up. And then she popped open the tape and her eyes shimmered with tears. “But, where’s my toaster?” she cried.
In the end, she decided the bear was alright and we were forgiven for not having given her a honest-to-goodness functioning toaster. But that memory has stayed with this worrier.
What if no matter how hard I listen or scheme or try, what if the giving and the getting of gifts don’t match up and I ultimately fail? Lists to Santa that change after the shopping is complete. Broken relationships. Out-of-stock items. There are so many ways to not give the gift that makes a person’s eyes light up. And since there are three little people as well as a whole host of big people in my life I give gifts to, I worry about the giving and the getting.
I suppose this fourth mimosa slushy is helping me shrug and say “whatever” or “regift opportunity”. Unfortunately, it isn’t having much of an effect on shushing the little voice in my head, the one that is always talking to me about every freaking little thing. Instead, that little voice is whispering, “What if you missed the mark?”
Someday, I really, really hope someone can find a good “whispering voice” muffler and wrap it up for me. Now that, the quieting of the worrying side of myself, that would be a gift that would keep on giving, all year long.