It’s the thought, not the gift
Even as an adult, you still wake up Christmas mornings with a mischievous smile and that nervous twinge of kid-like excitement in anticipation of opening gifts.
Although some look at the sunrise event as routine after four decades, you still have mental (albeit somewhat fuzzy) pictures of Santa landing on the roof during the night and, thanks to Tim Allen a few years back, you now understand exactly how quantum physics enable the big guy to squeeze his round frame into that relatively square hole.
The family gathers before eating breakfast, as nobody else in the household wants to wait either, and the presents are quickly distributed around the room, each To/From sticker lining up with the corresponding silly slippers covering each pair of matching feet in the room (last year’s funny-funny, ha-ha stupid gift).
When it finally comes around to your first turn (you always take turns, although you’ve never understood why), you tear into the beautiful wrapping, oblivious to your wife’s carrying on about saving those carefully tied bows, ribbons, expensive pipe-cleaner ornaments, etc.
“If it was worth keeping they would put it INSIDE the box,” you shout amidst the ripping and tearing. The room erupts with laughter, even though you’ve made the same remark 20 or 30 years in a row.
With your heart pounding louder than an Ann Coulter-Al Franken debate on FOX, palms sweat and eyes widen as you reveal the exciting gift beneath the multi-colored tissue paper: a stainless steel alligator-shaped nutcracker.
Lifting the tail causes the creature’s jaw to descend, whereupon you insert said nut and, thanks to the miracle of leverage provided by the witty fulcrum, you lower the tail and thus crush the nut so its insides can be enjoyed by all.
“You shouldn’t have,” you say, trying to hide your disappointment behind a facade combining a forced grin with clenched teeth.
“No, seriously, you really shouldn’t have,” you announce while leaving the room in a childish huff.
“What were they thinking,” you mutter to yourself, besides the fact that you should, of course, grow the hell up?
They were thinking of you, you ungrateful twit.
“I couldn’t think of what to give you,” they sheepishly announce in defense.
The words “could,” “not,” “think” are the only ones you can hear.
“You already HAVE everything you need,” they repeat ad nauseam.
According to whose needs? you wonder.
But did it ever occur to you that you – the selfish jerk that smiles back in the mirror – just might be the stupid end of this stupid relationship that produces stupid gifts each year? Did you ever think that you are a shallow and spoiled adult that equates the value of a gift with the value of friendship?
Come on, you have it all backwards. ‘Tis the season to give, not receive, and the sooner you accept that, the sooner you can get back to enjoying the holiday season like it’s supposed to be enjoyed.
Whether that alligator nutcracker is made of shiny plastic and sells for $1.97 at Wal-Mart or stainless platinum and sells for $1,977 at the Silver Buckle in Beaver Creek does not reflect upon its intent as a gift. It’s the thought that counts.
This is the one time of year where we put differences aside and smile at one another, regardless of each others’ ideologies or bank statements.
But why do people insist on giving stupid gifts?
Because they don’t think it is stupid when they buy it, unless of course they ordered it direct from stupid.com, in which case it becomes a “gag” gift and is an entirely different subject altogether.
So remember that while you are shopping during the next few weeks. What you might think is an ingenious and thoughtful gift might be received as the gift from hell, and it could end up in the trash or the exchange counter or worse, be regifted to someone else next year.
What matters is that you thought enough about the person to give them a gift in the first place. If they don’t like the Hilary Clinton bobblehead doll you give them, that’s their problem.
At least you’ve showed them how much you care.
Richard Carnes of Edwards writes a weekly column for the Daily. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org