Trying to buy the perfect gift is hard. It’s a large contributor to the stress of the holidays – is it what they want, is it too much, not enough? Will it fit?
That’s why gift cards, certificates and good old hard cash never go out of style.
Mama decided she wanted to give us gifts this year, instead of the tradition she had taken up the last few years of giving us the green backs.
I was touched that she wanted to put the thought into the gift, but at the same time concerned.
“Don’t worry,” Mama began. “I’ve never bought you anything awful.”
True, she never has, although if Mama buys me clothes, she tries to sneak a pastel in there on me instead of my daily black attire that’s failing horribly at slimming me.
We spent hours on the phone as she walked the toy aisles trying to find exactly what Cole wanted.
She wanted to know what he had circled in the toy catalog that had been in the paper before Thanksgiving.
“Page 52,” I told her.
“What was it on page 52?” she asked.
“All of it, Mama,” I told her. “Every stinkin’ thing.”
She laughed, flipping through the catalog in the store. “OK, that’s a good starting point. Now, what do you and Lamar want?”
Lamar’s like me – the things we want are too expensive for us to ask someone for them. I want a new camera and lense combo and a new laptop; they’re things I need for work too, but things I really want. But I also know what I want will cost more than I would ever dream of asking anyone to spend.
So I told her what I needed. New underwear.
“You are literally turning into your grandmother,” Mama said appalled. “I am not buying you underwear.”
“That’s what I need,” I told her simply.
“Christmas is not about what you need – it’s about what you want.”
And then it dawned on me why Mama was doing the gift thing this year.
The year before, she gave me my envelope with Santa on it and some cash and told me to get me something special. What did I do? I bought some fancy new drawers with it.
That infuriated Mama.
“What I want will cost too much,” I said.
“I’m still not buying you underwear. Your uncle can buy you the stuff you need.”
And he does. Every year, much to my uncle’s amusement, he will wrap a big pack of toilet paper and paper towels, stick the biggest bow on it he can find and nearly fall off the couch laughing when I pretend to be horrified when I open the gifts.
“It’s the thought that counts!” he will say between peals of laughter.
“And what was the thought behind this?” I will ask, still enjoying the joke.
He also includes a bill in an envelope, but the other paper gift is far more amusing to us.
I think after 20 years, that joke gift has lost its appeal for Mama. She doesn’t care for the whole gag gift anymore and she prefers the impractical Christmas gift. Like the nearly $40 lipstick she bought for me.
She sent me a picture on my phone, knowing that if I hated it, she would need to go ahead and take it back. I thought it was gorgeous until I asked her how much it was.
“Mama!” I exclaimed. “You take that back. I do not need a $40 lipstick.”
“I will not!” she responded vehemently.
“This is Christmas. I know you hate surprises and I know you think I need to just get you underwear – your friend gave you thermal underwear last year and you were giddy – but I am getting you something frivolous, something you won’t buy for yourself. No, you may not need this, but you are getting it.”
I hadn’t meant to get her all riled up, but I had.
Mama was determined she was going to get me something I had absolutely no need for, something I wouldn’t buy for myself but she knew I would love.
“I also got you a pair of jeans and a sweater,” she continued. “And I know how you hate surprises and know you will wash the jeans before you wear them so you need to check your back pocket.”
“Why? Is the receipt in there?”
I may have to take them back if they were made for those tall, skinny girls with actual waists and no hipbones.
“No,” she sighed. “I put you some money in there. It’s not much. But I thought you may want to get that eyeliner you like that Lancome makes. I know you said you needed it and I couldn’t remember the name,” she began.
“And I thought if you really needed yourself some new drawers, you could maybe get you some.”
I smiled. It truly is the thought that counts.