Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Folly of the Perfect Gift

Countdown to Christmas. Allison's hamster is on hold at aunt Sandy's pet store. Everything else is either wrapped, shipped, stuffed in my closet or behind the laundry hamper (God forbid anyone look there!) or hidden behind twelve years of bankers boxes full of bank stubs in the basement. (Pardon the alliteration.) I may have hidden things other places, which I'll find at Easter time.

As usual Robert and I have waited till the last minute to shop for each other. We always play the "Oh, let's not buy anything big for each other" game where he always cheats and surprises me with something wonderful. Funny I never catch on. Nice for me that Robert suffered in his youth a humiliation so profound that it would forever cement his gift giving protocol with women. You see, when Robert was twelve he made the unforgivable mistake of presenting his mother with a mop as her Christmas gift. It was the Miracle Mop and he truly believed he was giving her something she'd appreciate. When she broke down crying, "This is what you think of me?" he was so mortified with shame that I get things like furs and jewelry every year when what I really want is appliances and tableware. Our early married years were frugal. Everything we had was second hand and I know this sounds unbelievable, but we didn't possess a microwave oven for a least four years. I actually heated milk and baby food on the stove like in ancient times, but I had two fur coats I didn't want, a small diamond necklace and plenty of perfume.

So a couple decades later I can't even think of anything else to cram into this house. We have it all. But Christmas demands you think of something to want. And besides world peace I'm really stretching. Okay, maybe a bigger Apple monitor. I'd like to buy Robert his very own personal computer, but I hesitate because he keeps warning me, "nothing expensive." Then this morning as he made breakfast it hit me what I would do.

Ever since Robert has returned from Steve's palatial Florida home he has been telling me about all Steve's neat stuff. Steve has done extremely well for himself and only outfits his home in the very best. On the third or fourth night there Robert phoned me and before hello he asked:
"What is the thread count on our sheets?"
"What?,"I said, stunned at hearing Robert utter a phrase I believed was unknown to him before his trip. "Um, three hundred, I think."
"Only three hundred? Are you sure it's not a thousand, because that's what Steve's are and I swore ours were too and he said he doubted that. Okay, thanks, bye."

It became a running joke with them to compare and contrast their stuff. We being the "low" design and Steve being "high." Mercedes trumps Chevy Tahoe. Sub-Zero trumps Kenmore. Armani trumps Old Navy. They are best friends from college so this was fun and amusing to them. Robert loves Steve like a brother and rejoices in his fortune. I know that's true because Robert is very unmaterialistic and satisfied. It's me and the kids that eat up our resources. Still, when Robert returned home he was full of wonder for Steve's neat stuff which he related to me in detail because it was fun to do so. But he was quick to tell me he's perfectly happy with our station in life and our cozy home. Up until that moment I was believing we were living pretty well, but that was before being reminded of those driven ones who raise the bell curve and make the rest of us feel like underachievers. Normally they're not in my orbit so I don't notice our lack and I live contentedly.

Anyway, back to this morning and the idea of the Christmas gift. As Robert pushed the toaster knob down he blurted, "Steve has this toaster, I think it's called Viking, and it makes toast perfect--every inch of the bread gets toasted perfectly." I stared at him for a minute, at his goofy excited expression. Wow, that's really nice, I said, but I was really thinking, Something by Viking I think I can afford. Alright buster, you're getting a toaster for Christmas.

So I headed to the Plaza to the kitchen specialty stores where I discovered none carried the magnificent 300 dollar Viking toaster. I actually heard myself saying, "Well then, give me your most expensive toaster." That's right, You heard me right. Nothing but the best for him. I'm thinking I'll put together a kitchen package. A few chef knives, a griddle, an apron and a big spoon and then I'm going to say, "Get in that kitchen, man, and cook me something!"

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