Wednesday, December 26, 2007

THURSDAY THIRTEEN #47 -- Really Good Gifts




It IS much better to give than to receive! And now that all (but one) of my holiday gifts have been distributed, here are 13 of the highlights.

1. Hudson the Polar Bear (shown). I got my mother a real-live polar bear as part of the Brookfield Zoo’s Share the Care Program. In addition to knowing that she is helping with young Hudson’s care and feeding, she also received a (much) smaller plush Hudson, a color portrait of the real thing, and a commemorative certificate.

2. Small suitcase. It’s black and white and about 12” x 6”, purchased for my niece. She loves trunks and cases and jewelry boxes. I have no idea how she’ll use this – purse or storage – but she’s imaginative and enthusiastic so I know it has a good home.

3. Cars Mater National. It’s the latest GBA game based on the Cars movie (just released last month), and my nephew didn’t even know it existed! You should have seen the mix of joy and genuine surprise on his face. Yes, I’m the coolest aunt ever.

4. Chicago Bears Claw Glove. Technically speaking this was a Hannukah gift for a friend’s little boy. He was behaving so well under such trying circumstances (listening to his parents and me babble about things of no interest to him at all) that I was happy to relieve his boredom, and it made me happy to watch him joyously swiping the air, most likely imagining the Green Bay Packers.

5. St. Louis bottle opener and magnet. More than twenty years ago, when I first met the dad of the boy mentioned above, I got him to tell me an embarrassing story about himself. It involved beer, a road trip to St. Louis, and a group of frat boys relieving themselves on the Arch. I believe he forgot having told me that story until he opened the jewelry box and discovered this treasure, decorated with the poor Arch. Watching his look change from surprise to recognition to … well … embarrassment was great fun.

6. Personalized cat ornament. My uncle has always been very good to me. I’m saddened by watching him suffer through a slow, painful and ultimately failing bout with Parkinson’s disease, However this doesn’t get in the way of my recognizing that he can be a real pain in the ass -- lately he has been guilting and tormenting my poor mother big time, and he’s become very hard on his caregivers and his only child (my cousin). He could be very high-handed before the disease struck, and Parkinson’s hasn’t helped. All this helps me understand why his cat, an old and regal gray tabby, has become his best friend in the world. She is descended from Egyptian gods, and consequently feels she and my uncle are complete equals. Roommates, if you will. She is impervious to his uglier moods, and loves him even when he’s having medication-induced fits. So it made me happy to have an ornament made with her name and picture on it. I included a note that his best friend deserves a place of honor on his tree. And she does. She’s brought him comfort and companionship when he’s needed it most. so I’m grateful to that old furry girl.

7. Bush and Cheyney chew toys. My friends who live in the Keys have been together nearly 20 years and just bought their first house. Since they’re both men, it’s hard to find an ornament commemorating their first Christmas in their own home together, so I had one made. Of crystal. I think it’s quite lovely. But that isn’t what excited them. It was the Presidential and Vice Presidential squeaky chew toys I included for their dogs. Those are what completely delighted them! Oh well, gifts are supposed to be for the recipient, and I’m happy that the silly dog toys brought them such laughter.

8. Vintage post cards. My family has been going to the same resort in Wisconsin for generations. I first went with grandparents. Now my kid sister takes her kids up there. I regret every wasted, boring moment, but my sister thinks it’s the loveliest place on earth. She’s very into scrapbooking, so I was thrilled to find 1960s postcards of the place for her to add to her albums. Thank goodness for eBay!

9. “Head sock.” My brother-in-law can somehow always guess what’s in a giftbox before he opens it. This year I thought I had him because I didn’t even know what this was called. A polar fleece hood or cowl … thing … that will keep his head, ears, face and neck warm. Before he had all the paper removed, he asked, “Is this a head sock?” Damn if that’s not the perfect name for it, and yes, that’s it was! How does he do it?

10. Houdini corkscrew. I’ve been getting my hair cut by the same stylist for decades. Over time I’ve given him bigger tips at Christmas, or gift cards, but it’s all become a yawn. Last year I noticed how happy he was the bottles of wine he got from one of his clients, proudly displaying them at his station through the holiday season. That’s when it hit me: I’ll get him a corkscrew to keep in the shop so he can share his Christmas spirits with his customers. I was glad it made him so happy.

11. “Believe” bracelet. A charm on a dainty blue ribbon for a friend of mine who has had a hard time finding her niche professionally. She’s good at her job, but she gets disillusioned quickly and leaves each place of employment after just a year or two. She really wants to be a success at her current position, and so I gave her an ongoing, pretty and wearable “pep talk.”

12. Massage. My gift to me. I’m nervous about my upcoming trip to the Keys. I don’t like to fly. I don’t have much time between planes and it’s supposed to snow. The airlines have been known to lose my bags when I fly this route. I’d prefer not to be some gator's Happy Meal, thank you very much. So Thursday afternoon, I’m treating myself to a massage. Hopefully it will relax me so much that I won’t be able to awfulize myself into a pathetic, terrified frenzy again before I board the plane.

13. Toy drives. A red purse, a pair of SpongeBob books, a Bratz doll, a Lego set, a pair of woolen Chicago Bears mittens and a Rubik’s Cube. I never saw these goodies opened, but purchasing them made me happy just the same. Maybe it’s because I’m in advertising and feel somewhat responsible for how commercial Christmas has become, especially for kids. It breaks my heart to think of a child NOT being joyfully surprised at Christmas. I’m proud and peaceful knowing that I made it possible for 5 kids to get something unexpected this season.

What about you? What gift gave you the most pleasure to give?

Put your link in the comments and I'll add you here:
1) Deb shares the most popular resolutions people make each year 
2) Ellen B. has a universal, multi-lingual New Year's TT
3) Chelle Y. revisits last year's resolutions
4) Moondancer shares 13 favorite quotes from a story she knows very, very well!
5) Malcolm's TT is back!
6) How do you think Tinkerbell did with her 2007 resolutions? Find out here.
7) Nicholas makes a compelling argument for sequels that are better than the originals
8) Sue got a stocking filled with fragrant goodies
9) Sobeit asks 13 questions about "after Christmas"
10) Open Grove Gloria has an inspirational TT
11) Monday through Sunday looks back on an eventful year
12) Lori got some way cool stuff this year!
13) Susan Helene Gottfried takes us to Yellowstone
14) Lazy Daisy's self assessment is brought to us by the letter "Y"
15) Sandy Carlson introduces us to the world of fairies
16) Natalie shares her resolutions for 2008
17) Yen remembers 12 wonderful months
18) Fresh Girl looks back on her Christmas celebration
19) Gattina shows us her Christmas gifts
20)Deanna goes down memory lane and comes back with some adorable retro dolls
21) That Grrrl shows off her photos of abandoned farmhouses
22) Toni gives us the highlights of her holidays, including a shih tzu named Cujo. (Sorry, Toni, but the connection kept timing out before I could leave a comment.)
23) Nancy discusses what she doesn't want to do in the future
24) Ornery's Wife shares 13 facts about Ornery himself
25) Nancy J. Bond reveals her favorite Christmas gifts
26) Dane Bramage looks back on those we lost in 2007
27) Michelle O takes us on a tour of her daughter's toy box
28) Angelie tells us what she gave, and what she received

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A word about sisters

Specifically my kid sister and me.

Part of why we clash so much is that I'm disappointed in the woman she's become. I know that sounds harsh, but there you go. (And if a gal can't be honest with her blog …) We're 8 years apart, and it was during her childhood our parents' marriage broke down completely. They never divorced, and the hostility in the house was very hard on her. I took on the role of protector and ersatz parent. Because I was young and still immature myself, I'm afraid I may have imbued her with gifts and qualities she didn't have. I know that, in material ways, I made her life easier to make up for how difficult her day-to-day was in that house. Now that she's often selfish and expresses a certain sense of entitlement, I realize that I helped create her. And I suppose I have no right to be disappointed that she hasn't lived up to expectations I had no right to project onto her.

On the other hand, she gets on my very last nerve. And I clearly get on hers.

Yet in some ways, no one knows you like your sister. On Christmas Eve, we gave one another our favorite gifts. I got her vintage postcards of our family's favorite vacation spot in Wisconsin. She got me the DVD of Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol. She reminded me that since she knows how I love it, she was the one who got it for me first in Beta, and then VHS, and now was undoubtedly time for an upgrade.

I guess that's one of the gifts of Christmas, isn't it? To remind us that we're bound by history and family, and that we love one another … even when we don't like each other.