July 23, 2024

Column: “That Got Me To Thinking…?”; “Gift Giving”

8/3/20 “That Got me to Thinking…?” Chapter 8 “Gift Giving”
By Bruce Williams

     Bruce Williams

As I was getting ready for work this morning, I spied a coupon book that my daughter Louie made as a Father’s Day gift at least three years ago.  Filled with all sorts of thankless tasks (foot rubs, cleaning her room—and my favorite…”no complaining”) I chuckled remembering it, eyeing her sweet, left-handed scrawl of yesteryear throughout, then schemed about how I planned on pulling it out of nowhere that night and cashing in just to see the horrified look on her now  ‘tween face (she ended up begrudgingly giving me a five minute foot rub with gloves on, then confiscated the coupon book altogether).  And that made me think about all the other ill-begotten and ill-advised gifts I’ve witnessed over the years.

There’s nothing worse than the coupon book when it comes from the thoughtless, randy boyfriend—chock full of unwanted “lovemaking sessions”, inedible romantic dinners, and short back rubs with libidinous intentions.  The ultimate in “I put absolutely no thought into this…” and let’s face it—a precursor to the eventual breakup.  “How come you haven’t redeemed any of my coupons?”  “Well, Darryl, I think I misplaced your gift right out the window of my Corolla.”

Last minute gifts are usually pretty obvious, too.  The wine bottle with a 7-11 price sticker; a fleece blanket, scarf or mittens from Old Navy; a Hickory Farms gift box (I find something inherently untrustworthy about salami and cheese that do not require any refrigeration); the magazine “subscription” that never actually shows up.  Then there’s the gift card.  I stood inside a Target one Christmastime picking out gift cards for our seven young adult nieces and nephews when I noticed they even had cards available for Amtrak, Motel 6, and Denny’s, and I thought—what a horrible, depressing gift package those three would make.  That’d be your way of saying, “Hey, you suck—here you go…twenty bucks to each of these terrible places for you!” on Christmas morning.

Then there’s the re-gift.  That taped up box with the Ronco (“As seen on TV!”) veggie slicer that’s missing the julienne blade.  The odd porcelain figurine with smudge fingerprints all over it (“Who told them you collect hippos?”)  Any of a number of items off their home stack at Hoarders-R-Us, culled from the “all sales final” bins at Burlington Coat Factory, T.J. Maxx, or HomeGoods.

There’s also the nightmarish workplace gift exchange, where there’s at least one coworker that nobody wants in the drawing.  The leering I.T. guy that asks the office ingenue

what size she takes at Victoria’s Secret.  The crocheting middle-aged marm that thinks a guy in his 20’s needs a toilet paper cozy.  Or worse, your boss.  There’s always at least one chia pet in there, too…”You like those—right?”  Or something homemade from the kitchen of the person you’ve witnessed on several occasions not washing their hands as they’ve exited the washroom.

I’m terrible at center-of-attention graciousness, too.  We threw one of those elaborate backyard birthday parties that included all the parents when Lou was about five, and somehow my wife got conveniently tied up inside at the moment of gift opening, so it was me that was left to unwrap the packages along with my young daughter in front of a crowd of about thirty—feigning interest, let alone believable excitement over Barbies, bead sets (who’s going to pick all those up?!), “cute tops” (a wincing, “oooohhh!”), more stuffed animals and the like as best I could.  I vengefully sought out my wife, Michelle, after the ordeal was over, her knowing grin openly conveying all of her elusive secrets.

So, gift giving—I’m going to present you with something because, you see, I care.  A lovely concept, really, in its intention.  Leave it to humans to run it off the rails.  By the way…what do you want for your birthday?  I think I still have that gift card from Old Country Buffet around here somewhere.  Aahhh…you’re welcome!  It really was nothing.