Saturday, December 3, 2005

Wish Lists

It's after eleven, but I'm not yet sleepy. It's blogging, weird BBC late night programming with my husband or another Lifetime movie. So:

I spoke to my mother in law today, and she asked me what I wanted for Christmas. I have never really known how to answer this question.

My husband and his family are quite clear with each other about gifts. They'll call each other, months away from Christmas or any applicable birthdays, and advise about possible presents. I've seen my husband thumb through a magazine, see some automobile related accessory he liked, and call his mother to say, "You can get me the auto fubliminator for my birthday." And then, on his birthday, the FedEx guy arrives with said fubliminator. It really is quite tidy, but that is not how we did it in my family.

My family does not give advance wish lists for gifts. Instead, we each continually buy each other things which can be broken down as follows: 10% things which the recipient actually likes and uses, and 90% things which the recipient has never heard of, wouldn't want, only brings out when the giver is visiting, but was on sale so had to be purchased.

For this reason, over the years I have been given various gifts which even the giver has forgotten about altogether within a few days.

For the same reason, I have given, among other things, a boxed set of tunes by the Boston Pops on a pay later deal, then forgotten to pay later, so that my father had to buy his own birthday present; cuffed pants to my sister who would rather wear anything but; and a super sized twix bar to my mother because I was ten, and unemployed.

So to be part of a family that gives and gets gifts that they each actually want - that is new. To be asked what I want - that is also new. I somehow was raised believing that you didn't ask for things (yet I remember clearly asking for a lot as a child. Somewhere there was a mix-up).

So I answered my mother in law: nothing. That was the polite answer, right? To which she scoffed, "Nothing? Ha ha ha. So you don't need *anything* at all."

I can see that I have screwed myself for several Christmases to come. There is really no way to politely come back to that statement. What am I supposed to say?

To me, saying what I'd like is the same as ringing people up and demanding presents (apparently this would be fine with the in laws, but my mother is, after all, from North Carolina).

And insisting that I don't need anything has the dangerous possibility of sounding like I just don't want a gift from them. Which is not true. Of course I want gifts. I just don't want clothing, knickknacks, jewelry, candles, lotions, potions or any of the other things commonly purchased by people for women they are still getting to know. I can't bring myself to say that what I'd prefer is a nice tidy gift certificate to Target. I don't know why, I just can't.

So I laughed with her, and changed the subject. Then she got on the phone with my chef husband and they waxed poetic about the frying pan she'd given him for his birthday. He will probably get another piece of cookware for Christmas.

I have decided. I will pretend that these are joint presents (I do, on occasion, actually prepare food). I will start sending out joint thank you notes for any gift which arrives from his family into this house. That way he's happy, they are happy, and I don't get boxes of scented candles and hand creams that smell like things I am allergic to.

And as for my Target gift cards? I'll just get my husband to buy me those himself.

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