After the Fact: Returning gifts


We look like escapees from the 100 Acre Wood of Christopher Robin. Chris’s gift from her dad and her “other” brother was a onesie pajama with a hood: it doubles as a flying squirrel.  Imagine a blanket with legs and you’ve got it. Patience’s onesie is a monkey with a long tail, and mine is an owl. I’d like to think Brendan chose the owl because he thinks I’m incredibly wise: more likely, his dad suggested the bird because he’s still convinced I couldn’t outsmart a chicken. What does he know? I live in the San Luis Valley and he’s in California, home of the fruits and nuts.

Our family friend in Los Alamos, Dorothy McNeese, is an absolute genius when it comes to gifting. She’s always known just the right thing for a birthday present, for Christmas, for a new baby, or any other gift-giving occasion. Dorothy is also unbelievably talented as a gift-maker: she sews, she crochets, she decorates, she comes up with ideas no-one else could even hope to imagine. But it’s not just the gift you remember, it’s the “presentation.” She gave Chris a box filled with tiny booties in different styles, different colors and all filled with color-matching cotton balls when she arrived home for the first time. Very few people have the talent; more just opt for the gift card to WalMart or Starbucks and those can be welcome, too, if you think they’ve actually thought of you instead of grabbing something from the display. I need a gift card from Cabela’s why? Or Dunkin’ Donuts?

Crince Pharming was still in school and I was working part time and mommy-ing the rest of the time. After rent, groceries and the Crince’s weekly case of Coke (Coca Cola, not the white stuff), we had next to nothing to spend on Christmas presents so, in the way of all younger folks, we made gifts for everyone. In a conversation with my sister many years later, I learned that most of the recipients didn’t so much remember the gift as they did the creative ways in which we’d wrapped them. A sealing stamp and the colored wax (you have to be pretty old to remember these things!) were put inside a small box and a toilet-paper tube and the whole wrapped to look like a small coal-burning train engine. The train cars held chocolate-coated candy and decorated Christmas cookies. We spent hours every evening making gifts and more hours wrapping and I think we truly enjoyed just being together.

As the years went by, the income grew and the time we could spend doing silly things together became less. We would have given gift cards except stores had not thought of “creative merchandising” more than putting the candy by the check-out stand.  I became the designated letter-writer, card-sender, gift-buyer and wrapper. Crince paid the bills.  I’ll admit, I spent more time trying to find “just the right thing” for his mom than for anyone else in both families. Mine were a snap…after all, I’d grown up with these folks.  Brad’s dad, John Lloyd (from Hooper), was also an easy buy…you could have given him cow pies and he’d have known the cow was waiting by the back door.  His sister, Tink (Barbara) wasn’t too difficult...she was, first, a young girl, then a teen, then old enough to be civilized. But Crince’s mom. Crince could have forgotten to give her anything and she’d be happy to just see him; no matter what I picked out, she returned it. Years later, I hit on the perfect gift but, by then, she’d gone on to that heavenly kitchen. I should have given her a full case of Mason jars, a package of cucumber seeds and a large can of kerosene.

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