Wednesday, December 26, 2007


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.


Peggy said...

I opened my Christmas gifts when they were delivered in October. The multi-trayed appetisery dish thing was nice. There was also a Christmas serving dish--keep in mind that I don't celebrate Christmas, and certainly would never use a dish like that. Quickly regifted that one. Then there was the wooden box, just like yours, soooo not me. The lid had unglued itself by Christmas, when I regifted it as wrapping paper.

The stuff you sent was cool, though, and I think you liked yours, so I don't think it's genetic.

Carrie said...

Oh, my parents are kind of the same, and it makes me sad.

Did I ever say any thing to make them think that I need a fire/carbon monoxide alarm? I live in an apartment where these are provided! Or does it look like I need a pack of 9 ice-cream-flavored lip balms? I hate to be snooty and say that I don't use cheapo lip balm...but I don't and never have!

Also, since Porkchop became my partner with a cat in tow, she is subjected to receiving multiple cat-themed presents. We have a cat, but we don't enjoy cat-themed calendars or decorative objects.

Ah, parents. I wish they would just give us one gift that they really put a lot of thought into instead of loading us up with crap that we then have to unload elsewhere.

Crafty and Crap said...

I so understand. I uploaded the inlaw gifts on Flickr. I think the bag was $200 and the scarf maybe near the $100..will i use either.. nope.
Parents got me a homedepot card. Perfect, especially since its on my list. Boo got me smart wool clothes so i wouldn't freeze in VT cause obviously i can pack warm clothes... they were very nice. He wants to also get me the Keurig which is top of my want list so that would be sweet...