Ahhh, the holiday season. That special time of year when too many people over-stress, over-shop, and over-spend, all for the sake of giving the perfect gifts. Do we select a gift from a mass-produced list that goes to other family members, or perhaps something a bit more special? Maybe we chose something the gift receiver wouldn’t purchase, or an item they didn’t even know they needed, but we wanted to buy.
Maybe the question to ask is “why am I giving this gift in the first place, and what kind of message do I want to send?”
I am not a great gift giver, but a few years ago, a friend offered to buy me a vacuum cleaner for Christmas. I am not kidding. And neither was she.
So was I being too sensitive when I felt a bit offended? I don’t think so. To be fair, she had heard me mumble “someday, I need to get a new vacuum”, and she was just trying to be helpful. But what was I to think? Now, I could dwell on the implications this drew about my housecleaning skills, but instead, I began thinking about the delicate art of gift giving.
Occasionally, I’m also not a good gift receiver. One year at Christmas, I received a basket filled with kitchen gadgets from a group at work. I knew they had the best of intentions as I loved to cook, but all I could focus on was the package of jar grips in the basket. Instead of being grateful, my mind ran to we thought you could use these as you continue to lose strength in your hands and succumb to other impairments associated with getting old. Ok, maybe not as gracious as I could have been, but at least, I had enough sense to keep it to myself.
In my grandma’s final years, she had no extra money for frivolous gifts, and gave me silver flatware serving pieces for Christmas. I remember going back to school and my friends were all excited about their cool gifts. I’m sure I rolled my eyes. (I was 15. It remains a requirement for 15 year olds.) How could I tell them the story of the berry spoon and meat fork I’d received? Of course today, I wouldn’t trade them for anything.
The worst example of a gift though was one I gave last year. I am in a group that exchanges anonymous gifts with a nominal price attached. Then the group has a good time opening and swapping and stealing, and it’s a fun game, and no one knows who has contributed which gift.
As I saw pillows and scarves and other nice items, I began to slowly die. Toward the end of the game, one of my very good friends took my present. Death was closer. I closed my eyes. This was not good, but I didn’t want to give any clues that I was the gift giver. I knew what I had brought was not in good taste. What was I possibly thinking?
She slowly opened the gift. I quietly gasped what I hoped would be my last breath.
“Hmmmm. Massage oil,” she said.
“That’s interesting,” the person sitting next to her said, with raised eyebrows. “Is it scented?”
I swear, I’d never even read the label. I tried to emulate the looks on the other faces, the ones that read now that’s a little personal. Maybe even a little creepy.
Later, my friend laughed as I compensated her with another gift so I could bare my soul. But in my defense, I’d heard about this oil and all of us living in Arizona look for anything to help us look non-lizard like. But really, massage oil? Maybe I could have just given her a bottle to try.
So who is with me? Who has received gifts, or better yet, given gifts that you wish you could “do over”? I’m sure I’m not alone. Just leave the vacuum cleaners and massage oil for someone else.
Please consider sharing this blog with your friends – think of it as a gift!