Meredith C. Carroll: Thoughts on gift-giving – and not giving – this holiday
Other than the unadulterated joy I’m bound to receive every time I hear Gene Autry sing about the magic in that old silk hat belonging to Frosty, I don’t expect much in the way of presents this holiday season.Due to some unforeseen expenses over the summer, my husband Rick and I have decided against exchanging gifts this month. Our gifts to each other are instead being redirected to a select few credit card companies and doctors’ offices. We wish them all the best during this festive time of year.I like getting presents just as much as the next girl, but I’m not completely heartbroken because except for the Ugg Cardy Classic Boot (in oatmeal), there’s nothing I really want. And although he’s quite possibly the world’s most loving partner, Rick ranks only slightly higher than the Greeks who came up with the Trojan horse on the gift giving scale.I’m not sure where or when in his life he veered off the good gift giver course. He seems to have started on the right track, as Rick’s mom tells about the time he begged her to take him shopping to buy Angela Cush a diamond ring when she was his date to the eighth grade Christmas dance. She declined, but she did let him get Angela Cush a pair of costume earrings.
He had the best of intentions then, and he still does today. He just hasn’t quite conquered how to effectively channel those good intentions into even better gifts.Shortly after we started dating Rick had the occasion to buy me a gift. But he apparently mistook my we’ve-only-been-dating-for-three-months-so-at-this-very-fleeting-moment-in-time-I-think-everything-you-have-and-do-is-enchanting vibe. Because he reacted with, “Wow, she really likes the fish in my 55-gallon tank, so surely she’d love a tank and some fish of her own.” Clearly, though, the fish sensed my ambivalence to being the keeper of living things and promptly died after being in my charge for a few weeks.For that same birthday Rick also gave me a pair of binoculars and a harmonica. He knew I loved music, and we’ve both always wanted to play an instrument in addition to the piano, so he thought it would be something we could learn together. The rationale behind the binoculars had something to do with us taking up bird watching. To this day we have mastered neither the harp nor the hummingbird, but at least we have proper tools ready should we ever decide to take up either.After we had been dating for a year, Rick presented me with a giant stuffed bear that doubles as a footrest. He explained that it was partly a nod to my fascination with bears and partly a respite for my aching legs after long runs. It was incredibly thoughtful, and although not quite the romantic gift I had hoped for, at least I could say it was the first stuffed animal I had been given since the plush Snoopy doll I got in third grade.For the holidays a few years ago Rick got some swanky bath soaps and gels. If I had actually taken a bath even once since my parents stopped washing me as an infant, I’m convinced I would have loved them. Regardless, at least I have the security of knowing I am equipped at any time to take a high-end soak.But while he has yet to hit a gift grand slam, Rick is a much better gift giver than, say, the guy who gave Abraham Lincoln the tickets to see “Our American Cousin.” And I still relish everything he offers because of the genuinely lovely way in which he does it. Like a kid at, well, Christmas, he bubbles with excitement at the prospect of giving. A month or so before an occasion, he asks, “Do you want me to tell you what I’m getting you?”
To which I always reply, “No. Surprise me.””Don’t you want even a little hint?””Nope.”Once we were standing in a supermarket checkout line when he nudged me to look at the magazine rack.”You should get that,” he said with a wink, pointing to an issue of Modern Bride magazine.
I rolled my eyes. “Why would I get that?””Oh, no reason,” he beamed.It seemed to surprise him when less than a week later I wasn’t entirely surprised at his surprise marriage proposal.Of course going gift-less this month isn’t the end of the world. It’ll just give me extra time to figure out how to start dropping hints at what I really want for the next special occasion. (By the way, in case anyone was curious, Nordstrom carries those Ugg boots.)Aspen resident Meredith C. Carroll writes a Friday column. E-mail questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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