I don’t do a lot of Christmas shopping any more, but when I do, I have fun. My budget is usually limited, so I don’t feel pressured to find the perfect gift for each one on my list. Instead I shop the way Mom and I did when I was a kid. I go to a local store and wander through the aisles until something jumps out me. Regardless of how you shop, there are those gifts that simply fail.
The year I was sixteen, I couldn’t wait to go Christmas shopping. I worked at Woolworth’s making $1.10 an hour, and I was anxious to share my wealth. I don’t remember most of what I bought, but I remember what I got for Mom – a frying pan.
Since Mom commuted to Dallas and didn’t get home until 6:30, I cooked dinner most nights and was aware of the kitchen needs. We had a couple of skillets, but one had a wobbly handle and one had only a metal stub where the handle had once been. That’s why, on my first December payday, I visited the kitchen section of Montgomery Ward and purchased a shiny new frying pan. That night I carefully wrapped it and put it under the tree. Then, buyer’s remorse set in. What was I thinking! Sure, we needed a new frying pan, but Mom would not be excited to see one on Christmas morning.
One night after Mom went to bed I sneaked the box out from under the tree, carefully unwrapped it, and removed the ill-advised gift. I re-wrapped the empty box and placed it back under the tree. The next day I returned the skillet and bought a cute pair of black shoes, and that night I completed my gift switcheroo. The shoes fit, and she loved them. I don’t think I ever told her how close she came to getting a real failure of a Christmas present.
Several years later, Mom presented me with an odd gift. I had been married for four years but had not yet ventured into motherhood. We were spending Christmas with Mom and Dad, and I was very surprised when I opened my gift from her and found a very lacy nightgown. I’m sure I had a confused look on my face as I looked up – and then I saw the mischievous look on her face.
“I want a grandbaby!” she said. Needless to say, she was thrilled when she had a new grandson to play with the next Christmas.
When this grandson was four years old, all he wanted for Christmas was a Sit ‘N Spin. Based on television advertising, he was convinced that the magical toy was the answer to all his dreams. When he came downstairs Christmas morning, his dream toy was sitting under the tree. His face lit up, and he ran over and plopped down on it. Nothing happened. He sat, but it didn’t spin. His face fell and his eyes filled with tears.
“It doesn’t work!” he wailed.
Once he let go of his unrealistic expectations and realized that the spinning required kid power, he spent many happy hours making himself dizzy. At that moment, however, the gift of his dreams was a total fail.
My fourth failed gift was to my mother-in-law – the one person you really want to impress. Mine was a wonderful woman, but her very specific tastes and her tendency to buy the things she wanted for herself made it hard to buy for her. One year, as the relatively new daughter-in-law, I had the bright idea to get her a spa day – a facial, a manicure, and a pedicure. She was pleased with her gift and looked forward to a new experience.
Unfortunately, the experience didn’t live up to expectations. In fact, it turned out to be one of those gifts that keeps on giving. She developed a fungus under the nail of the big toe on her right foot. She lost the nail, and she had recurring problems with it for the rest of her life. As I said in the beginning, even the most discerning shopper sometimes experiences failure.