Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Sometimes it's better to gift with the receipt

It's that time again. The stores are decorated. The CVS aisles are taunting me with Reesces trees. Shopping center light posts bear the same worn out decorations you've seen since you were four. And in a matter of days, the Salvation Army bells will be ringing and I'll be wracked with guilt as I leave Dunkin Donuts with a hot cup of coffee if I don't empty my change into the red bucket. It's just a matter of time before people start asking me what I want for Christmas and I have to ask them in return.

I'm not against gift giving. I actually love to do it but asking someone what they want can be dangerous. I know several people in my life who ask for something simple but it comes with a dozen or so restrictions that make the task impossible. One year my aunt wanted a simple yellow pillow. Sounds easy, right? Right. It was the request that that followed which made it Mission Impossible I, II and III. It had to be a certain shade of yellow, not too light, but not too bright. It could have flowers but only if they were muted colors. No fringe or tassels. If it had braided trim, it was okay only if it wasn't gold and could change to pink only on Sundays between the hours of 8 and 11 a.m. Here's my kidney, I found it easier to remove with a butter knife and some whiskey than finding your yellow pillow that doesn't exist in any of the 200 places I looked. Oh, and here is the gift receipt.

Sometimes I have the opposite problem. I listen carefully to Stew all year and when he says he wants something I file it away for Christmas, birthday, anniversary, Valentine's Day. That's how he ended up with a nose/ear hair trimmer for Valentine's Day. Romantic i know, but ear and nose hair is so not hot so it kinda works . . . in my world at least. By the time any of these holidays come around I have a list as long as my arm and limited funds. And he makes buying things ahead of time impossible because if he is not sure they are coming he buys it himself. I had every intention of getting him B.B. King tickets for Christmas but I know Stew and unless he knows he has them, he will buy them as a surprise for me. So, I am forced to tell him ahead of time and I end up blowing a great Christmas surprise so that we don't end up with four expensive tickets. Or, I will be in target with Stew and he'll show me a few things he wants. Of course I can't get them while he is with me but, since the boy scored a pair of AC/DC pajamas there last February, he almost NEVER misses a Target shopping excursion.

Lucky for me I am unemployed so I can return to Target anytime I want alone for just one dollar. Yesterday was that day and I knocked a few people off my list. However, with Stew not with me, it leaves me with a bit more browsing time and the intention of buying gifts for other people turns into buying gifts for other people . . . and me. I hadn't asked certain family members what they want yet so I was tempted to just scrap that idea and get them whatever with a gift receipt. I'm convinced that my aunt and I have not kept a single item we've given each other in 15 years despite how much we say we love it when we open it up on Christmas Eve. I don't think I hid my disappointment very well when I opened last year's fur trimmed, suede ankle boot because she promptly handed me the gift receipt. Ankle boots are just not my thing, you need nice slender legs for those and I just wasn't blessed with those.

My mom still likes to think my sister and I are 5-years-old despite the fact my sister has kids of her own now. She finally broke the habit of singing "Santa" on the from part of the gift tag. She also finally semi-broke the identical gift rule of thumb. For a while, my sister and I had to open up our gifts at the exact same time or else they would be spoiled. If she picked up a rectangular box, I had to quickly find the matching box in my pile. I sat down with her last year and explained that it's ok for us to get different gifts. We know she loves us the same. We don't need matching sweaters/ornaments/candles/scarfs to tell us. It's all about being even I know. When I am shopping for my nephews, I find myself doing the same thing. It is hard when there is a 5 year age difference between them tho', A gift that is age appropriate for a 4-year-old is too childish for a 9-year-old smart ass mini-genius. I know they will share whatever they get but one of them is always vying for the other one's gifts the second they open them.

This year I face a harder task. Buying Stew's side of the family gifts. Last year, I was still new so I bottle of wine for his aunt and uncle sufficed. Who knew if I was even going to be in Stew's life by the time they cracked it open. Altho' he was living with me by then, so the chances were better I would be. Gift certificates to area restaurants prove to be good and i think I will do that this year. Gift certificates are such a business because most people forget they have them/or lose them so the business makes money without ever having to shell out their services. I still have a certificate for a manicure from 2004. It's not my regular salon so I never think to use it. Plus, I chew my nails so I never think to get a manicure. I guess that is the real reason. I always feel like a nudge when I ask to use to use the certificate towards something I need more like a pedicure or an eyebrow waxing. Some places don't allow substitution at all.

Thank god this holiday only comes once a year. It's always a stress on the brain. See, maybe that would be the best gift giving idea ever. Say to someone, "let's not swap gifts this year. I am giving you the gift of peace by not having to think about what I may or may not like/want.

No comments: