My parents, (insert the obligatory Southern "Bless their hearts!" here, which generally helps keep me from ranting) have a long history of crappy gift giving. Every now and then, they nail it, but generally, especially as the years go by, not so much.
The classic example is the bentwood rocker they gave me for my college graduation. They got a great deal on it because the cane seat had a tear in it.
I think that says it all, really, but there's plenty more evidence where that came from.
Some years, I swear we got the gifts that come advertised in the gas station credit card bills.
LB has come to learn the hard way that if he tells them he's interested in something, every holiday for the rest of our lives he will be getting vaguely relevant gifts with that theme. LB is interested in outhouses--real outhouses, or at the most a book of photos of real outhouses. He now is subjected to faux watercolor outhouse prints, outhouse magnets, outhouse joke books, etc.
A few years ago, he thought he had circumvented the problem by circling a specific book in a gardening catalog and telling them he wanted it for Christmas. It was a reprint of 1920s woodworking plans for gardening trellises. In the lead up to Christmas, he kept talking about how he couldn't wait for his book to arrive, couldn't wait to open his presents. The expression on his face after we opened our gifts was like the seven-year-old who finds a jar of vitamins in his stocking.
I tried to explain the source of his disappointment. He thought he had clearly said, "If you are looking for an idea for me for Xmas, I would really like this exact book. It would be just perfect, and I would love it." He had, in fact, clearly said as such. I witnessed it. But from years of experience, I also know my parents' thought process went like this: "Great! Larry likes gardening books. The next time we see some on sale, we'll get him one." I bought him the trellis book for Valentine's Day.
An amazon wish list worked for a while, but they seem to have forgotten about it.
I can't quite recall what they gave me last year, but afterwards I remember concentrating really, really, really hard on imagining them shopping together, conferring over whether or not the item was right, their thrill at thinking they had found the perfect gift, the love with which they sent it.
After all, it's the thought that counts, right?
But that's the trouble really. The thought process seems to have almost no relationship to who I am. Who we are.
This year, I got two ink bottles, although they had already given me one about five years ago. It turns out my father thinks I still do calligraphy--something I dabbled in for about a year in high school, sometime in the early 1980s.
I got a wood box that looked pretty at first until I looked on the other side and saw the "charming" and "rustic" pine cones, which were already missing several of their scales.
There were some things that they had bought at a reenactment--things which had no relationship to items actually used by people who lived during the Civil War.
LB got this book.
When I unwrapped the last box, my spirits rose. It was a GPS for the car. I got excited again, until I opened it and found an Alice in Wonderland music box inside. I do collect AiW stuff, and over the years they've gotten me some really cherished parts of my collection. This particular music box, however, seems to have once been a snow globe or something. The top of the base is raw wood, with the machine marks clearly visible. There's a slot for the globe to go into. Yet another example of a "great deal."
Lord knows, LB and I can't claim perfection on these matters. LB gave me two outdoor thermometers this year. In our years together, he's probably given me about eight thermometers. I don't know why, but he really wants me to know the temperature. The only temperature I'm generally interested in is in the kitchen. I do love the chocolate tempering thermometer I got this year. I knew I would.
Because I picked it out myself.
Year after year of gifts that don't reflect my interests have made me pretty paranoid about my own gift giving. Whether it's nature or nurture, have I inherited inferior gifting skills?
I hope you found something in your stocking that made you smile and something under the tree that made you do the happy dance.