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When it comes to gift-giving cluelessness, I rank right up there with the dazed husbands in 1950s comic strips. I am incapable of selecting an appropriate gift and even buying it (much less getting it in the hands of the receiver) before the applicable holiday/birthday/ life event.
This isn’t anything new. My innately ungracious temperament made itself known in second grade, when, upon making a card for a teacher, I decided to do that list thing where you write the name down the page and come up with a suitable list of compliments. You know:
A-ttentive to her dog
T-akes the last piece of cake but washes the cake pan (probably)
I-s doing well with managing her hair, now that styling it takes 2 minutes
E-ats like a champ
So, my only real memory of this event is having the very nice teachers’ aide standing over me, saying, “Are you sure ‘A-trocious’ is a compliment? Why don’t we get the dictionary and look it up?”
I insisted that it was a nice word, and given that my last name began with S(-tubborn), I have a feeling that “atrocious” stayed on the card.
Nowadays, when my husband’s birthday rolls around, I start griping about it weeks in advance. “I don’t know what to even get you,” I will say. “You always hate everything I buy. Why don’t we just get a new TiVo and call it your present?”
(This is not, in fact, completely true. He doesn’t hate everything. Once I bought him a very cool belt with a shark on it, which he really liked. The only problem was that it was about 6 inches too short in the waist.)
Lately, though, I have found things tilting in my favor. The first reason is that my husband is a pretty good gift-finder, and as we are a package deal, I get away with just doing the wrapping and sharing equal credit for selecting the gift itself. Secondly, grown-ups give and receive fewer gifts among ourselves, so the actual occurrence of ridiculous gifts has declined. Thirdly, my gift-giving strategy for children is no-fail, and always pleases the parents: “Get something silent that will break quickly so they can throw it away.” And fourthly…
I learned to sew. Well, now! Suddenly, I have babies, dogs, and people who like tote bags and coasters completely taken care of. The occasional apron or plastic grocery bag dispenser, and my list is just about complete.
I have the fabric. I have the patterns. In fact, all I’m missing to carry out my grand plan is the time to sit down at the sewing machine. And everyone knows how easy that is to come by, during the holidays. (Thanks to Deb Kris for the reminder.)
So, okay, maybe this year I’ll get one hand-made gift out the door and find the rest by doing a quick sweep of the endcaps at Target (er… excuse me, Bloomingdales, of course).
Fear not: if you’re on my list and you celebrate a birthday, a wedding, a bar mitzvah, a birth, the acquisition of a puppy, or even make an offhand remark while attending a barbecue at my house, your day will come. Someday you will be The One who gets the homemade treasure, the one you will no doubt cherish forever.
Until that day, though, just open the dancing Santa figurine and keep that smile plastered on your face. You wouldn’t want to ruin my atrocious day, would you?