By Suzanne Sparrow Watson
Note: The shooting in Newtown, CT. is foremost on my mind this week and ordinarily I might comment on it. But others have and will continue to write much more eloquently than me on the subject. And frankly, I still get too choked up thinking about it. So I’ve decided to stay within my wheelhouse and hopefully bring a much-needed laugh or at least the glimmer of a smile to you today.
Last week I lamented to my husband that our Christmas tree is looking a bit forlorn this year. There is barely a present under its boughs – it looks like Whoville after the Grinch stole all the presents. The problem? Gift cards.
Our tree used to be overflowing with beautiful packages – glimmering paper, bright shiny bows and the occasional gift bag. Now – we have a few meager looking gifts and many, many envelopes. I get it – there is a certain practicality to gift cards. It’s easy for us to shop, the recipients get exactly what they want, and hopefully, they can take advantage of the after-Christmas knock-downs. Prices, not fist fights.
But buying gift cards has all the joie de vivre of taking the car in for service. Most every company’s card can be purchased while picking up parsnips at Safeway or cough medicine at Walgreens. I still think there is nothing as satisfying as finding exactly the right present for someone and watching their face light up as they open it on Christmas morning. But I also recognize that sometimes things go terribly wrong. We have had “train wrecks” galore in our family all springing from the good intentions of our mother.
Well into her 90’s, despite years of our protestations, each Christmas she insisted on giving a shirt to every adult family member. To give benefit to the doubt, let’s just say that at her age, she does not exactly have her finger on the pulse of current fashion. Or anything that even hints of fashion in the last 30 years. Each Christmas she would lovingly select quite possibly the worst shirts ever made – colorful geometric or wild prints for the guys and sequins or some sort of farm animal motif for the women. Over the years we could have won Oscars for our performance while opening these gifts. And when it was our turn to open “the shirt” our siblings and their spouses would be in the corner trying to hold in the laughter as we artfully “oohed” and “aahed” our way through with as much sincerity as we could muster.
One year she so outdid herself in her selection of my nephew Matt’s shirt that my nephew-in-law, Colin, declared that it was, in fact, The Ugliest Shirt on Earth. After peals of laughter and a dare to wear it in public, the shirt went into hiding. Matt is a man who knows that revenge is best served cold; he re-gifted the shirt to Colin on his birthday in July, when he was least expecting it. Colin, in turn, wrapped it up beautifully the following Christmas and re-gifted it back to Matt. Over the years, the shirt has been hidden in expensive wine containers, golf ball boxes, and rolled up into Christmas stockings. But the sine qua non, was when Colin, who is British, sent the shirt to his parents in England who put it in a local department store box and sent it Fed Ex to an unsuspecting Matt at his office.
Which all goes to prove that even the worst of gifts can provide years of amusement. Just try doing that with a gift card.