I am a horrible gift giver. It’s not something I’m proud of, but I have finally matured enough to admit it. It isn’t that the intent isn’t good, but we know which road is paved with good intentions, and I feel like I’m on it when it comes to go Christmas shopping. I love surprising my wife, but I have learned that when it comes to gifts, there are surprises and then there is the thud of missing the mark.
I finally came to the bright idea of enlisting my daughter in doing some sleuthing. I am sure my wife knows what is going on. She always does. But she’s kind enough not to admit it, at least not in front of me. It’s to the point now that when she responds to my daughter’s Christmas query, she uses the phrase “tell your father.” Honestly, I’m good with that. She may not be surprised, but she’s also not disappointed, and, therefore, neither am I. A no-thud holiday is a good one.
I learned this lesson the hard way. We had married long enough to be on our third house and had two children when she said, “we’ve been together all these years and you don’t know what I like”? The voice in my head said “no”. The one attached to my mouth sputtered something just vague enough to keep me from the doghouse but not specific enough to be used against me in a court of law.
It took me aback. She had a point and I felt like the world’s worst husband. But I’ve always taken such setbacks as a challenge. In this case, it was the challenge to be a better listener. I needed to be more observant. Certainly, there was something I could do to make her life easier, and, therefore, show her how much I really care. This was a situation that needed fixing and guys always need to fix things. Problem is, we tend to be pragmatic about it. That can backfire.
In my effort to be a better husband, I began to listen more closely and picked up on a need she had. Great! Now all I had to do was fill the need with something wrapped in bright paper and a pretty bow. Off to the store I went like the good hunter-gather we guys tend to be. When it comes to gift shopping, we’re like the Terminator. We focus on the object like prey. Truth be told, we’d much rather mount the gift on the wall than give it to you. Then we can tell the story of what a bargain we got and how many people we had to knock out of the way to get it. Telling others of our cunning and stealth is the gift that keeps giving…to us.
Christmas morning arrived, and I was bursting to see her face when she opened the gift that was inspired by words she had uttered some weeks prior. The children were there among the discarded wrappings of their gifts. They, like me, were watching eagerly as she carefully removed the bow. They, like their mother, were unaware of the world’s most thoughtful gift that was about to be revealed. The tension was almost unbearable. I wanted to blurt out what I had gotten but was able to hold my tongue.
Then the moment came and the paper was ripped away. What a wonderful sound, the sound of gifts being opened. Sounds of joy always follow. Well, almost always. After the sound of ripping was followed by an unforgettable “thud.”
“You remember when you said you’d like an electric can opener,” I asked.
Oh, she remembered, and I could tell she was regretting it.
But it wasn’t just any electric can opener. This was the Black and Decker “Gizmo.” The Gizmo was a little cordless ball you attached to the top of a can and it would drive itself around the top like a choo-choo safely opening the can. The next thing you know, soup’s on!
My wife got her comeuppance not too many Christmases later when she purchased some pajamas for our son. They were cozy flannel softness. Surely, he would love lounging in these while nursing a hot cocoa by the hearth. A real Tiny Tim, God bless us, everyone scene.
He opened box, took one look and then commented on the pattern decorating the sleepwear.
The difference in the two situations is that my wife took the pajamas back and exchanged them for something more suitable for a ten-year-old boy. I did not return the Gizmo.
I mounted it in its charger in the laundry room. My wife never used it. I did for a few times, but the thud I heard every time I used it was deafening. I gave it to Good Will. Likely, it is still sitting on their shelf.