Some people say that Holiday’s like Christmas are all about giving. “‘Tis better to give than to receive,” and all that hooey. I have very mixed feelings about the gift giving holidays. I want to get presents. Let’s be honest, don’t we all? I think anyone who says, “I don’t care about receiving presents. I just like giving things to people and watching their faces light up when they open the package,” is lying through their artificially whitened teeth. (I don’t know why the teeth are artificially whitened, that’s just the first thing that came to mind and we’re going to go with it.)
I like to GET presents, but I HATE to give them. I do. It’s not because I’m stingy or selfish. I’m not. I do like to give people presents that they genuinely enjoy and appreciate. There is a commercial that keeps playing on the radio right now: I think it’s for Roku (Obviously not a very good commercial because I had to try six different spellings, “Orocu, Orokoo, Arocu, arocoo, etc.” before I actually found ROKU with no O or A in front of it.) The commercial says something about knowing the different between genuine appreciation and fake appreciation when you give a gift. I? I get the fake appreciation most of the time.
I don’t usually try to give people gifts that will blow them away. I don’t make any sort of effort to surprise people, because I suck at it. I ask people “What do you want?” and then if I can afford it, I give it to them. If I can’t afford it, I ask, “What else?” I hate it when they tell me, “I don’t know.”
I’m just not very good at gift giving. I suck at gift giving and I come by it naturally. Observe:
One year, when I was about fifteen, my mother decided, seemingly on the spur of the moment, that she was going to give us something for Christmas. She ran out on Christmas Eve, in search of some kind of gifts for her children. The next morning, after we had our traditional Pillsbury cinnamon roll breakfast, we each opened a small package with our name on it. Each package contained one embroidered dish towel and one pot holder… with Santa Claus on them. Again… I WAS FIFTEEN.
Last year my mother sent me a green t-shirt with a giant Grinch face screen printed on it. She couldn’t have known by looking at the shirt that the dastardly smiling mouth on the shirt only serves to highlight my much maligned and despised gut. I also don’t appreciate being referred to as “The Grinch”, which is what she calls me when she’s not calling me Scrooge. I never have and never will wear the shirt out of the house.
Last week I received a text from my mother:
“I’ve ordered you some Christmas goodies from Harry & David. Don’t know when they’ll arrive but be on the lookout.”
By chance I came home that night to a box on my front steps. I opened it up and found a metal tin inside with three different flavors of Moose Munch. If you don’t already know, this is Muse Munch:
Give or take a few months and a different color rubber band.
I texted her, “This is some awfully mean stuff to send a guy with braces. 😉 Good thing they’re coming off soon. :-)”
“I completely forgot about the braces!” she told me.
I answered, “It’s OK. They’ll be off in a few weeks. That stuff will certainly keep. Thanks for sending it. Should be tasty.”
She asked, “Did you get both boxes?” I told her I only got one. “The other one will be a little more braces-friendly, I think.”
The next day a second box appeared on my steps. “This box has air holes…” I texted to her. “Did you send me a puppy?” This box had six pears, a small bag of mixed nuts and a block of cheese. (See the picture of my mouth above.) I’m not particularly fond of fresh pears, though I don’t know if it’s realistic to expect that she ought to have known that.
It’s clear my mother doesn’t know how to give good gifts, though certainly she means well. I wrote yesterday about all the pressure, expectations, and demands on holidays and this is just part of it.
I’ve been thinking, these last several days, about gifts and how I feel about them. There was a time when I bought into the addage, “It’s the thought that counts” only, I don’t think I believe it anymore.
I’m fully prepared for the one person who actually comments on my blog with any regularity (and the one person who just has to talk to me in person about it because she’ll explode if she puts her thoughts down on the blog instead of – or maybe in addition to – talking to me about it in person) to give me all kinds of grief over this, and that’s okay, but just hear me out.
I have so much stuff. Way too much stuff really. I don’t need more stuff. And I’m beginning to feel like gifts for the sake of gifts? are just stuff. It’s stuff I can’t throw away, or give away or return, because if the giver catches wind that I got rid of his gift so that it won’t be just stuff, the giver will get his feelings hurt. The thing is, if the giver gave me a good gift, then it wouldn’t be just stuff it would be something of value, something I might treasure and therefore, would not get rid of it. I’m coming to a point where I feel like, if I don’t need, or didn’t already really want, the item the giver is giving me, it’s actually a burdon. And because I feel this way, I feel very ambivilant about giving gifts because I don’t want my gifts to be seen that way, and so I’m just adding to the pressure on myself to give good gifts so that they won’t be just stuff and I’m no good at it.
If you’re like me, though, you buy yourself all the affordable things that you need or really want and it’s the things that you can’t afford that you really want someone to give you, only they can’t really afford it either and so there’s nothing for them to give you because you’ve already bought all the things that people can afford that you want. It’s a vicious cycle.
I’m not sure, now, where this post was going to go, though I’m certain it was a very different direction. What I do know, now, though, is…
I think that’s what I’m going to do from now on.
If everyone who was going to give me a gift, just gave me money instead, maybe I could pool all that money together and spend it on something I really wanted, like an iPad or a new television instead of a box of pears and a — Well, I don’t know what else, because I really only expect to get one other gift and I have no idea what it will be… probably Glee DVDs.
Apparently, Michelle was going to buy me a new printer since the one I had doens’t work with my new-ish computer… But I bought myself one on Saturday so now she has to come up with something else. Way to go, me! But in “me’s” defense, Michelle stood right there and watched it happen and didn’t say anything until we got back to her house with it. She could have stopped me.
OH! I know where I was going with all that!
I’ve been struggling for the last several days with the idea of gratitude and appreciation vs. expectations and dissappointment.
When I opened the box of Moose Munch, I was dissapointed that my mother sent me what amounts to caramel corn and chocolate chips. (You Moose Munch enthusiast can just back-off. I’ve never had it and I can’t eat it for at least another two weeks and probably six.) It’s food. She sent me food for Christmas. I can afford to buy my own food so this didn’t fill a need. A quick glance at the Harry & David website tells me she probably spent close to $30.00 on this caramel corn and chocolate chips. Plus she sent the pears and cheese. Another $40.00? At least it is food and will go away. It’s not just stuff.
On the other hand, there were lots of years when she didn’t give me anything.
So I can’t help but wonder… Am I making too much out of this? Is it really “the thought that counts”? Am I just ungrateful? Is it my own fault for having too high expectations when I find out someone sent me anything at all?
Then again, it occurs to me that since I can’t remember any of the gifts I did get when I was a kid, and more often than not, I can’t remember a few months later what I gave anyone or what anyone gave to me… Maybe it is the thought that counts…
The truth is, I’m feeling simultaneously grateful and dissapointed, I just would like to open a package and just be delighted by what I find. But the fact that I feel grateful and dissapointed at the same time is soemthing in itself. I’m certainly not accustomed to the ability to acknowledge two contradictory feelings at the same time.
By the way, the pears are awesome, much to my surprise.
8 thoughts on “Counting Thoughts”
Thanks for stopping by my blog. I also have ambivalent feelings about gift giving. I really do like to give something that is enjoyed. I am a lousy recipient. Most gifts given to me go unused, re-gifted or otherwise ignored.
See! Stuff. 🙂
Thanks for stopping by.
I agree with way more of this that you might expect. OK – pick yourself up off the floor now. I think its a time to spend money on things you didn’t think you could afford the rest of the year (ahem… our tv), but now you suddenly can and the stores make it all the worse with all the huge sales. I also hate giving my kids the best Christmas present in the name of SANTA – when I want the big hug all to myself. So then what – SANTA gives the iPhone – and what does Mommy/Daddy give? How can I compete? Should I compete? What I love – is seeing the look in my kids eyes when they have something they are excited to share with us and can’t wait for us to open it. That – touches my heart. The rest – its corporate america making us all feel like we aren’t doing/spending enough. I’m in my last days panic mode where I’m technically “done” – but think its not good enough and start buying more… But – Money — not the solution.
What’s wrong with money? It’s a bit impersonal, I suppose, but “personal” is the whole problem. Personal is too hard. Of course, I wasn’t talking about Parents to their (child-age) kids. I was talking about adults. But at least when you give someone money, you know they will either be happy with what they got, or responsible for their own disappointment.
Personally, I would honestly rather have everyone who’s going to give me a gift give me money and let me pool it into one good thing I really want, then have people give me things that I don’t really want/like/need and have to pretend to be thrilled with it when I might not be.
I get what you’re saying, especially about the fact that I don’t need more “stuff.” I have what I need. And the stuff I want but don’t have is too expensive to expect as a gift. So at least partially for that reason, I’d rather give than receive.
BUT, I also love to give gifts. It may be easier for me. I have kids and they don’t hesitate to tell me the things they want and need. But I also love to give a creative and sentimental gift… My mom has an antique Christmas storybook, one in a series of many. It’s rare. It’s no longer in print. She loved it as a child. My siblings and I loved it as kids. Now the book is REALLY old and in very rough shape. I took the book and scanned every page. I had it printed, one for each sibling. I had it bound with front and back covers. It would mean nothing to you, but my siblings, especially my sister, will LOVE it. Gifts like that are fun to give.
And you’re right about the Harry & David stuff. It’s pricey considering it’s really just fruit and candy. I love the stuff, but I think I’d be a little hurt if my mom gave it to me for Christmas. Now if I got it from my employer, I’d be perfectly happy about it!
I love to give a creative and sentimental gift too! I’m just not very good at doing it. 🙂
These books are a great idea and I’m sure your family will be thrilled!! I guess the reality is, I put a lot of pressure on myself to give “good” gifts and most people are probably not as shallow and superficial as I am… (I kid… sort of…) but since I’ve been disappointed so many times by the gifts I’ve received, I guess I just assume that other people will be by mine…
It occurs to me as I’m writing this, though, that I’m really talking about the gifts I receive from people I’m close to who ought to know what I like. People who are I’m just acquainted with, or haven’t known for so long rarely give me gifts, but when they do, I’m usually very happy with what it was, even if it’s not “good”.
My sister and I don’t exchange gifts. My mother sends me expensive “fruit and candy” and Michelle gives me gifts that are about 70/30 success ratio. My dad, who I didn’t get anything from for a long time, has sent me a check for $50.00 the last two years. Three guesses which I like the best…
I refuse to eat anything with munch in the name. It sounds gross.
Until I got the name right, I was calling it Moose Poop… Is that better?