Issue 22

The Gift of Giving


                I love to surprise my wife Rebecca with presents, except when I have to.  When there’s no pressure to prove my love, I actually do quite well for a man.  I possess a gift for finding the perfect presents for Rebecca, sometimes at a price I can even afford. However, when an obligation like her birthday rears its head, my talent suddenly retreats and there’s nothing but junk in sight.

                Rebecca and I have an arrangement that whenever I travel for work, I have to bring her back a present.  I find it a major challenge finding the chance to actually shop.  Usually I’m working from morning until at least 6pm, followed by a dinner meeting, movie, email and phone afterwards in my hotel room, and then to bed. I suppose I could wake up two hours earlier and try to find a 24-hour Wal-Mart, but frankly that’s not quite the caliber of gift I want to give my wife to say, “I missed you and love you very much.”  Sometimes I’m in the middle of nowhere, like Paris.  Rebecca doesn’t believe me that I simply couldn’t find any place to shop there.  I tried my best, but for some reason the German cheese and Chilean wine I brought back for her earned me the cold shoulder.  I suppose there’s always the last resort of buying something at the airport, but I simply refuse to pay airport shop prices for gifts I could buy in a grocery store on my car ride home.

                Anyway, Rebecca is quite particular in her hints (“Fish jewelry would be nice”) and so finding the right gift actually takes time and effort.  One time I did get lucky and hit the fish jewelry jackpot; I was set for the next three trips. Rebecca, however, has since caught on and now only gives me her hints right before I leave.

                This last trip Rebecca hinted for bath stuff.  I decided that relying on excuses like I didn’t have time to shop really didn’t say “I missed you and love you very much” any better than a Wal-Mart special. I carved out a block of time to find the local mall and peruse one of those fru-fru bath stores where I could discretely ask what bath salts were.  The sales lady understood my plight – i.e., that I’m a man – and showed me the shape container the bath salts came in.  There were several families of flavors, each with its own lotion, scrub, salt, conditioner, etc.  I picked up the properly shaped container marked “Raspberry.”  After looking over my shoulder to see if anyone was watching, I twisted off the lid. I refuse to drop $10 on a handful of salt without some idea of what I’m getting into.  I took a deep breath.

                The thought of my wife smelling like she’s covered in Raspberry pancake syrup was enough to turn my stomach.

                “It’s our best seller,” the sales lady informed me. Maybe women, who apparently have the ability to distinguish between sexual and sensual, really do find soaking in a fruity stew relaxing.  I peered down the shelf at my other options: Sparkling Green Apple, Plumeria, and Dandelion.  Where were the scents with names I could relate to, like Sweat, Heat, or Passion?  But what do I know about women or taking baths?  I decided to play it safe and bought one of each.  And no, I was not influenced by the sign that read “Buy three get one free.”

                A new wrinkle in this whole gift ritual is my son Skylar.  I’ve found him much easier to buy for than Rebecca.  After the procurring the bath salts, I located a bookstore and bought him a funny picture book.  I’ve gotten him several books over the last few months.  I like books.  Sometimes I pick one up for myself too.

                Suddenly I had a creeping feeling that I was nothing but a heel. Skylar is six-months old.  He doesn’t want books.  Heck, I might as well stop kidding myself and buy him that slot car set I’ve been lusting after instead.  I was out of time, but I wanted, no, needed to find something that Skylar wanted.  After an anxious 45 minutes, I finally found the perfect gift: a stuffed penguin with big eyes that Skylar could shove in his mouth and chew on.

                There was a price I paid in being late, but giving often hurts and takes extra effort to make that leap from “Honey, I’ve been wanting to buy you flowers all week but couldn’t find any good ones” to “I went to one more store and found a bouquet of your favorite flower.”  Certainly the thought counts, but one can’t bathe in a thought or chew on a book with as much satisfaction as one can a penguin.  Sometimes that extra effort makes the gifts we give more special than the person receiving them will ever know.


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