Monday, December 9, 2013

Looking A Gift Grapefruit In The Mouth

["Let Inga Tell You," La Jolla Light, published December 12, 2013] © 2013 

I don’t think anyone would argue with me when I say that the gift-giving season can get totally out of hand.   For years now, I have required the kids and spouses to submit gift preferences for themselves and the grandchildren by EOT (End of Thanksgiving).  I figure that if I’m going to spend all that money and all that time to buy and wrap, it should be something the recipient actually wants.  I go off-list from time to time if it’s something I really think they’d like or if not, can easily return.

My first husband and I used to argue about this as he felt that buying from a list provided by the recipient showed absolutely no imagination and he simply wasn’t going to shop from it.  He is apparently not alone in this philosophy.  Unfortunately, his idea of imagination included tickets to football games, a sport he imagined I’d come to love if I just gave it a friggin’ chance.  (Like THAT happened.)  Never a quick learner, I realized years later that I should have put Chargers tickets on my gift list and made no mention whatsoever of Belgian chocolates.  Dumb, dumb, dumb.

But I have to confess that I’ve given some blooper gifts myself.  When I was eight, my mother, encouraging both creativity and thrift, suggested that I and my siblings (seven and nine) might make craft gifts that year for which she supplied copious quantities of construction paper, fabric scraps, pipe cleaners, ribbon, Elmer’s glue and assorted frills.  The sibs stuck with the program, but I eschewed all this and cleverly made my mother a “stamp book” containing 200 new first class stamps intended for Christmas mailings which I’d found in her desk drawer and which I painstakingly licked with my own pink tongue and pasted on typing paper in fetching patterns.  Ten pages worth.  My mother actually cried when she opened it, but not for any of the reasons I imagined. 

The same year, I made blank scrap books for the relative using two reams of my mother’s expensive rag bond paper, ineptly stapled together, and the words “Scrap book” written on the cover in purple crayon.  You can imagine how thrilled they all were.

After that, Mom, in terror of my creativity, put a padlock on her desk and instead took us to Woolworths, handing us each a red basket, and letting us fill them with gift selections of our own questionable taste.  It was way cheaper than letting me make my own.  I know homemade gifts should be preferable to store-bought ones but I don’t think there was anyone who wasn’t happier with cheapo snow globes than the stuff I made them. 

As an adult, I used to find that sending the aunts and uncles food gifts from Harry and David or Omaha Steaks was usually a pretty safe bet.  I’ve always liked receiving food packages myself.  None of these people were easy to buy for, and they seemed appreciative of my efforts.  All except my retired biology professor maiden aunt in Ohio, an ardent conservationist.  I’ve still got the “thank you” letter I received from her for the package of grapefruits I sent.

Dear Inga:

In our society, why is sex discussable but not Christmas gifts?  Because you are intelligent and mean well, I am rushing off a letter about so-called “food” Christmas gift packages.
During the present domination of the Christmas packaging industry by the plastic packaging industry, I object to the use of scarce organic materials for excessive, useless fancy packaging. Again this year, I was inundated with “food” packages.  Your brother’s so-called petit fours were so well packaged that they were not damaged in shipping; paraffin provides great resilience to chocolate.  Your parents generously sent me several packages of fruit.  The apples were very large, uniformly bright red, each individually wrapped and then each in its own compartment in a plastic-formed tray and then rewrapped and well boxed.  They were quite tasteless but looked well in a dish.  The grapefruit you sent were very large and equally well packaged which was not necessary since the skins were so thick that they could have sustained a drop from a considerable height without injury.  Anyhow the seeds were so numerous that the grapefruit were inedible.  A former student sent me a collection labeled exotic fruit jellies.  Each fancy-shaped tiny jar must have contained at least a tablespoonful.  Each little jar was in its own container that was inside another box that was inside its outer wrappings.  All arrived unbroken and all tasted exactly alike, but like what I never could decide.  And another former student…but no, I’ll stop here.  I do appreciate the thought behind it but it seems wasteful in these times.  Would you please remove my name from your list for all future Christmas food packages?

Believe me, it was strictly magazine subscriptions after that.

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