Award-winning writer: Jackie Papandrew

Airing My Dirty Laundry!

The Gift Grinches

It came without ribbons! It came without tags!
It came without packages, boxes or bags!
And he puzzled three hours, ‘till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before!
Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store
Maybe Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!
– How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Every family has at least one gift grinch, a holiday humbugger who seems to spoil the glory of giving. In my family, we have two different kinds of the breed – one a young cheapskate and the other older and impossible to please.

The cheapskate -- my teenage son -- has perfected the miserly art of penny-pinching on presents to such an extent that he could give Scrooge a run for his money. I discovered this character flaw last year when I set him loose in the mall with instructions to use his last two months’ allowance to buy eight inexpensive, yet thoughtful gifts for each family member. I should have been more specific on the difference between inexpensive and downright pathetic

Over the next two hours, as I rushed from store to store doing my own Christmas shopping, I spotted him several times -- in the food court, in the arcade, even in line to buy a movie ticket. Not once, though, did I see him in a store. Finally, when it was time to leave, he appeared, looking smug, carrying one small bag. He announced he’d fulfilled his mission of buying gifts for everyone on his list.

“You’ve only got one sack,” I pointed out. “How can you be finished?” He refused to provide an explanation, just assured me that I would be amazed at his cleverness.

On Christmas morning, as we all gathered around our beautiful tree, my son passed out his gifts -- small, circular, clumsily-wrapped packages -- with a self-satisfied smile. Eagerly, we opened them and each of us, in turn, held up a single pink coaster decorated with a painted palm tree. Mystified, we turned to our own Ebenezer.

“Please tell me you didn’t do what I think you did,” I mumbled, mentally kicking myself for not questioning him more closely at the mall. Because, of course, that’s exactly what he’d done. He’d bought one set of eight coasters as gifts for eight people.

“See,” he said proudly, “you put them all together and you have a whole set!” Jacob Marley should have paid my tightwad-in-training a chain-rattling visit that night.

My dismay over my son’s stinginess, however, is nothing compared to the gift-giving anguish I have endured with my mother-in-law. Until last year, the woman had returned every Christmas present I’d ever given her. Returned them to me, no less, rather than discreetly bringing them back to the store or regifting them to someone else.

I’ve tried gifts of every variety. She’d give each one back within a couple of days, softening her explanations with an endearment.

First, I gave clothes. (“Too itchy for me, dear,” she’d say, “and too dark for my skin tone.”) Then I moved into a kitchen phase, giving her a beautifully carved wooden breadbox. (“It takes up too much room on my counter, cupcake”) and a comprehensive set of cookbooks (“I already know how to cook, silly.”)

Next, I pinned my hopes on travel, giving her an overnight stay in a charming bed-and-breakfast. (“You never know who’s staying next to you, sweetie.”) One year, I presented her with a gift certificate to a day spa. (“Those places are riddled with bacteria, sunshine.”) I plied her with creamy lotions and powerful perfumes (“Allergies, buttercup, did you forget about my allergies?”) I even attempted a book club subscription (“I don’t like that kind of pressure, petunia.”)

Nothing could pass muster with Miss Persnickety.

So last year, in a fit of sarcastic self-pity, I gave her two gifts that were utterly useless to her: a power drill and a pair of bright red thong underwear. When she opened them, she said very little. Feeling a bit guilty, I waited for the inevitable return. Nothing happened. After a few days, unable to stand it any longer, I paid her a visit. She opened the door holding the power drill, and before I could speak, she revved it up for my benefit.

“I just love this!” she yelled over the whirring of the drill. “I’ve been tightening screws all over the house. It makes me feel so secure!”

I managed, in my shock, to ask her about the thong. Surely, that would be returned. She smiled shyly.

“I know it’s naughty, but I’m wearing it now. It makes me feel just like Mammy in her red petticoat in Gone With The Wind.” I didn’t know whether to hug the woman or throttle her.

This year, in the spirit of the season, I’ve decided to treasure both of our gift grinches just as they are. I’m making it easy on myself by giving my mom-in–law some cold, hard cash. And if she returns that, well, I’ll use it to buy something for myself – maybe a complete set of coasters.

~  © Jackie Papandrew 2007 ~

Jackie Papandrew is an award-winning writer, syndicated humor columnist, coffee addict and mom to a motley crew of children and pets who provide a steady stream of column ideas and dirt. She's also wife to a very patient man who had no idea, years ago when he still had time to escape, what he was getting himself into. Visit her website at:  JackiePapandrew.com

[ by Jackie Papandrew Copyright © 2007, (me@jackiepapandrew.com) -- submitted by: Jackie Papandrew ]


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