For the first time in several years I’m excited about Christmas shopping. I have been given permission to buy actual wrapping-worthy presents instead of coughing up the cash or gift cards that teenagers prefer, and I’m scoring a lot of fun items. (Thank you Think Geek!)
Inevitably, though, I can’t help remembering two gift experiences.
The first happened when Molly was four and Frank not yet one. I had returned to work after a too-short maternity leave and missed my kids with an ache so intense, if you put your hand on my chest as if to feel my heartbeat, I’m convinced your fingers would grow numb and cyanotic, then your wrist, and so on. It was a devastating time, not helped by a patient I cared for who was dying, sleep deprivation from having an infant and working one out of five nights, and my growing suspicion that I’d someday leave medicine.
One Friday I arrived home for an actual weekend off, and it got worse.
The ToolMaster had a huge grin on his face, Molly wore a look of resignation, and our then-nanny shoved a duffel bag in my hands almost the minute I walked in the door. When I asked what was going on, they pointed to a vehicle pulling onto our driveway.
It was a white limo, summoned by P to convey us to a hotel where we’d dine at the first romantic restaurant he’d been able to afford when we’d dated. Tonight we’d eat high above our city under a twinkling canopy of LED lights, he informed me. We’d retire to the honeymoon suite — the one we hadn’t been able to afford on our wedding night. Then we’d be thoroughly alone for the first time in five years in rooms with vaulted ceilings and a swimming-pool sized tub.
Oh, I didn’t want to. I knew I needed the break, and what P was trying to do for us/me. I knew what it was doing to him that I was so torn and conflicted about being there, so I shoe-horned my way into a reluctant enjoyment of the experience.
He knew, though. He always knows. I still feel bad that I received P’s generosity in a perfect storm of ambivalence.
Contrast that gift experience with a bridal shower a few years prior:
My girlfriend and her fiancé had both lived independently, so the gifts were to be personal, rather than aimed at the household. I dutifully complied. And I had a moment of inspiration, using two sewn-together potholders for “wrapping”, the gift sandwiched between. The label? A recipe card stitched to the exterior.
At the shower itself, we did those silly games women play when they’re dressed up, seated on tiny chairs in a living room, several generations rubbing against one another. (No chance of a stripper in that high society crowd.) Then we opened the gifts.
As one of the bridesmaids, my job was to record who had given what, so the bride could later write out thankyou cards. I was distracted and had only half an eye on the room as I wrote. Even so, I noticed when a demonstrable hush fell over the company.
When I looked up, my gift was being passed from one well-manicured hand to another. The bride wore a pained expression, mirrored on every carefully made-up face in the room. But she had impeccable manners and she was my friend, so she stammered out her thanks.
“But…you didn’t open it,” I said.
Oh, the buzz of excitement and relief that hit that room ! It still makes me laugh. Someone raced to the kitchen for scissors to cut the thread. People shifted in their chairs to watch. They hadn’t been that excited when my friend unveiled the espresso machine from her parents.
And when G pulled out a scarf, inch by colorful inch — not even designer, but the best I could afford at the time — you would have thought I’d given her the Hope Diamonds by the cooing and clucking in the room. From disaster to discovery. 🙂
So, this year I don’t anticipate any kind of drama like either of these stories, but I did toy with buying my two teenaged nephews this:
How about you? Any best of-, worst of- gift-giving stories? What gifts fill you with the most excitement this year?