December 8, 2009
Merry Christmas to me
Shopping for gifts is one of the highlights of the Christmas season. If I begin early enough, it is a truly joyous experience. Wandering through the shops. Listening to the street corner musicians. Stopping for an occasional latte break. The real joy, however, lies in discovering something that I believe the recipient will truly love. Looking back, many of the gifts that have been the most pleasurable to give, and the most enthusiastically received, have had little monetary value. Instead, they reminded me (and hopefully the giftee) of a time shared or a story told or an interest expressed.
This philosophy works well with almost everyone on my gift list. Almost. One exception is my mother-in-law. For her, monetary value supersedes sentimentality. Anything purchased - and it must be purchased because homemade gifts have no value here - must bear the most expensive brand name available or it will be received with disdain. And likely returned. Or tossed in the back of a closet.
However, my topic here is not mother-in-law bashing, cathartic as that might be. I'll return now to my story.
Several Christmases ago, the problem of what to buy her appeared to be solved. She had begun to collect pieces of a miniature Christmas village. Not just any village of course. The Dickens Village Collection from Department 56. The most expensive she could find. For the past several years, this has made shopping for her gifts relatively simple. It was a matter of finding a village building which she did not have. And one which we could afford. Not always easy, but possible. All was well. She got a gift that she wanted. She knew it was expensive. And I took comfort from the knowledge that it would not be cast aside or returned.
So, of course, it was too good to last. Inevitably, she grew bored. Her interest in her Christmas village waned. And with it her desire to expand her collection each year. Finally, the dreaded words were expressed: "I don't want any more of those houses."
Unfortunately, the words were expressed after this year's gift had already been purchased. So back to the store it went. A store which did not provide cash refunds, simply credit notes. No worries. There would surely be something else in that establishment that would appeal to her. But no. There was nothing suitable. We knew we would have to look elsewhere. But there was still the problem of the credit note. It had to be spent in that particular store. And it came with an expiry date. There was only one logical thing to do. I looked around for something for myself. But what? Christmas ornaments? Candles? A framed print?
And then, there it was. Tucked away on a corner shelf. A clearance item from Department 56's Halloween collection. A lovely tombstone manufacturer and quarry. Complete with chained minion. Half-price because the minion reportedly became stuck periodically in the course of his labours. The credit note would cover most of the cost. Fate had brought us together. How could I walk away?
I couldn't of course. And today the R.I.P. Tombstone company has a permanent home in my living room. And the minion has been labouring steadily, never once faltering. Providing comfort as I attempt to find an alternate gift for my mother-in-law. I have an idea. I think it will be expensive enough. I just hope it's not too heartfelt.