The “Perfect” Gift

Every Christmas for the past half-dozen years, we are left scrambling at the last minute to find a gift for Sparring Partner’s mother. Well, it’s more of my husband calling me as I make final my final errands to let me know he still hasn’t found anything for his mom, could I look around, kind of thing. This year, Christmas Eve morn’ was no different, except I then put out a call of help on Facebook after I got the call from SP.

When a friend asked what she likes and what my price point was, I answered honestly: nothing and there wasn’t one.

Imagine if you had to buy a gift for someone who likes nothing but you were willing to spend $200, for example. Your brain will go into a frenzied loop.

Here’s what I know we cannot give her and why:

1) Alcohol. She’s involuntarily in recovery. That means friends and family are forbidden to enable her since she doesn’t think she has a problem, even though she’s fallen a half-dozen times with just as many black eyes and black-outs up to the point we cut her off about two years ago.

2) Gift Certificates to restaurants. Due to her physical limitations, including no longer being licensed to drive, she can’t go and enjoy outside meals; or if we do take her out, which actually is rather frequently and regularly (godblessus), she expects us to buy.

3) Clothes. One year I went to Christopher & Banks and bought her several outfits. As she opened up each box, she muttered how she doesn’t have room in her closet now and has no place to wear them. I’m sure I heard sad trombones after she said it.

4) Toiletries. One year early in our marriage, I bought her hand soap made with goat’s milk because it was suppose to be good for people with eczema, which she has. I found it years later under the bathroom sink, untouched.

5) Charity. Another DIL learned the hard way with this one. She bought a couple hundred stamps (back when postage stamps were commonly used) that commemorated and honored breast cancer survivors like my MIL. Every time I saw her open the stamps box for a letter, she bad-mouth that DIL about what a stupid gift idea it was and who the hell wants a pink ribbon delivered on their mail. Also, as my husband pointed out, they make huge donations every year for tax purposes. She would find our $200 donation in her name pitiful.

6) Jewelry. Sparring Partner’s dad buys her the most lovely and expensive pieces of jewelry for her birthday, Christmas and anniversary gifts. Precious stones the size of your index fingernail and bling enough to make my 1ct engagement ring blacken in shame. And guess what she says each time as she waggles her fingers in front of me to properly ooh and aah? "It’s so heavy and gaudy! I’ll only wear it this once."

7) Collectibles. She use to collect Hummel figurines, but then her 4-foot display cabinet had not another inch of room. So then she started collecting Swarovski figurines. That cabinet is also now full. As she opened the lid of the box yesterday, she said, "Where am I going to find room for this one??"

8) Framed photographs. They are stacked in a pile on the bureau and covered with the past week’s mail, thankyouverymuch. She won’t let us take down the framed photos on the wall from 1971 to make room for the newer ones.

9) "Grandma" gifts. When Doodicus was just a couple years old, we bought her a All About Grandma Book for Christmas. It was like a baby book but it was to be filled out with the Grandma’s perspective and history. I thought with her being quite old already, that it could be a wonderful keepsake for him to have after she was gone. The following year when we all gathered in her parlor for Christmas, which is the only time the room is used, right there on the side table was the Grandma Book, still in it’s original box, untouched. I was furious. I actually snuck it back into my purse and promptly gave it to MY mom. Oh yes I did. FWIW, she hasn’t filled it out, either, or if she has, with her dementia, there’s no telling where it may be. *sigh* Hey, I thought it was a great idea.

10) Food. It all gives her gas and sticks to her teeth, however it has not stopped at least one person in the family from from getting her a Fruit-, Flower-, Pie-, Cookie-, Lobster-, Crabcakes-of-the-Month-for-a-Year mail order.

It should be noted that we did also try the "Nothing" approach with gift giving. She made SP feel like a pile of poop for months after that faux pas, even though she said there’s nothing she wanted…"It’s just one more thing I have to find a place for!"

We ended up giving her a cardigan twin-set and a winter scarf this year. She responded as expected (see No. 3 above), but at least she can’t complain to everyone within earshot that we got her nothing. I’d like to thank my friends with their many thoughtful and meaningful suggestions. I certainly appreciated the effort!

4 thoughts on “The “Perfect” Gift”

  1. I suspected the gift idea request was for one of SP’s parents… Yeah, seriously, if you can’t make HER happy, might as well make yourself happy with a gift you’ll use at her house or one that will illicit a “fun” reaction.

  2. I have similar “issues” w/parents who buy themselves what they want, when they want it, so what’ left for me to get ’em? (Exhibit A: I bought a DVD player for their new TV, patting myself on the back for “discovering” something which would actually make a practical & well-appreciated Xmas gift… But I walked in the other day to find that Mom had already bought herself one – thank goodness I saved the receipt for mine! At least I could hook it up for ’em)

  3. You are missing out on a fabulous passive-aggressive opportunity here! You should find the UGLIEST piece of kitsch you can for $200. Make sure it’s large. And then enquire about it every time you talk to her.

    Other than that, you should just stop trying to get her something she likes, and start getting her things that amuse you. Or cashmere. No one complains about cashmere (unless they’re just plain crazy, of course).

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