By some small grace of frivolity, Mama has always believed Christmas gifts should not be practical.
It was the one time a year when one could ask for something a bit expensive and not feel bad for doing so.
Of course, she would often remind me,this did not mean I was going to get everything on my list, which included $100 Guess jeans, Members Only jackets, and 20 cassette tapes, mostly featuring Madonna.
“I am not buying you anything Madonna,” she would say, “Christmas or not.”
Outside of the Material Girl, Mama would try to get me the rest.
“You spoiling her,” Granny would protest. “When I was growing up, we got an orange. That’s what we got. Citrus. One a piece. You getting her britches that cost more than we spent on groceries in two months. Maybe three.”
Mama would ignore her, and gently state that times were different now and Christmas was supposed to be special.
My uncle, always looking for a way to play a prank on me, decided one year to give me the most practical gift of all: he wrapped a 24-roll pack of toilet paper, putting the biggest bow he could find on the package as he sat it under the tree.
“You will use this every day,” he promised.
“I will?” I asked, eyeing the big package.
“Oh, you will. And it will be something that you will be in a fix if you are ever without it.”
He laughed to the point of soundlessness when he saw my reaction as I peeled the paper back.
“You got me toilet paper!” I cried.
“It’s 2-ply and cushioned!” was his response.
“That’s a great gift,” Granny declared. “Wish I had thought of it!”
Mama shook her head. “Next year, give him a four pack of Dial and see how he likes it,” she suggested.
Problem was, he liked it.
While everyone else in our house was thrilled with packages of socks, toilet paper, and practical, everyday items presented in shiny paper and wrapped with a bow, Mama held fast to her belief that Christmas should be reserved for special gifts.
“Christmas is about Jesus, not about getting some ridiculously overpriced perfume,” Granny chastised one day.
“I know it is about Jesus, Mama,” my own mother said. “But even the wise men brought the baby frankincense and myrrh; not exactly practical gifts and quite pricey perfumes, if you ask me.”
Granny grunted. “You got a smart answer for everything, don’t you?”
And Mama believed in gifts that hailed Chanel, Lauder, and Lancome – and didn’t bat an eye when the sales person gave her the total.
“Mama, wouldn’t you like some poof?” she asked Granny one day. “It would be nice for you to have a pretty bottle sitting on your dresser.”
“Jean, I work in a sewing plant. What am I gonna do with some high falutin’ bottle of poof sitting around gathering dust? I ain’t gonna wear it.”
“You could wear it on Sundays.”
Granny frowned. “I ain’t gonna let you spend a lot of money on something I will wear one day a week. That’s foolishness. It will sour before I use it all.”
“No, it won’t,” Mama protested.
“It will, too. Don’t you get me any poof.”
“Then what do you want?” Mama asked.
“What ya mean?” Granny wasn’t used to someone asking her what she wanted. She was used to being given something and told to appreciate it because that was all she was going to get.
“What do you want for Christmas, Mama? I will get you whatever you want.”
Granny thought about this for a longtime. She needed a new stove but wouldn’t dare ask anyone else to get it for her.
She wanted a new fridge, but the old one was fine; she was old enough, she would say, for her wants not to hurt her.
After a day or two of ruminating over
what would be an acceptable gift, she approached my Mama with her request.
“I want some bedroom slippers,” she said.
“Yep, bedroom slippers. I want the booty kind, so my feet will be warm all over, and I’d like them to be a pretty color. I ain’t never seen a red one but if they do, that’s what I’d like. If not, don’t get me no pink. I’d rather have blue.”
“Ok,” Mama replied.
“You got all that?” Granny asked unsure.
Mama nodded. “Yes, booty bedroom slippers, preferably red. If not, blue; no pink.”
“But Mama, why bedroom slippers?”
Granny sighed. “It’s the one thing I need and want, that I always forget to get for myself. And if I do, I feel bad spending too much on them. So, if you want to get me something all fancy, get me some fancy bedroom slippers.”
It was a practical gift, which Granny liked, but she felt like at Mama’s request, she could get the booty kind.
And for every year, until 2015, we got the old gal bedroom slippers.
I asked Mama the other day what she wanted for Christmas.
“Any makeup? Lancome? Some Chanel Mademoiselle?”
“You know what I really want?”
“Bedroom slippers,” she said. “The booty kind.”
And bedroom slippers she’s getting.