Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Gifts (or lack thereof) Can Hurt

I feel like such a consumer this time of year. Well, who doesn't, it's a cliche I know. I can't stand how broke it makes me feel as the credit card receipts pile up high and I still feel like I haven't satisfied the never ending "gimme" hunger from my son and the feeling that the gifts have to be piled to the ceiling in order to feel satisfied. I admit that I really love seeing a big pile of presents with my name on them. And the bad parent feelings I have for not buying him enough, plague me constantly.

I remember one winter I visited my father for Christmas, a plane ride away, and spent the week with him, his girlfriend and his 2 small sons.There was an enormous pile of tempting presents under the tree. I'm Jewish and a tree was almost more thrilling than the presents themselves. When the boys woke everybody up early Christmas morning, the anticipation was huge. We all gathered around to open the presents. With each gift I opened I felt the pit in my stomach growing larger.

First I got a purple hat, scarf and glove set. Then I got a fat book about how things work (who cares how things work, I wanted toys and dolls). Then I got a yellow mug and plate with a smiley face on them. The boys were still opening their gifts and, miserably, I was done. Trucks, games, cars, toys and wrapping paper were everywhere. Then, after probably five minutes of gift opening frenzy (it seemed to me like hours), there was one present left and it was BIG. I mean really BIG. I looked at the tag and was overjoyed to see my name on it. As soon as I started to rip into the paper, feeling like MY present was finally here, and boy was it worth waiting for, the biggest one of the whole pile, I was quickly stopped and it was taken from me by my father, with a laugh, that it wasn't for me. In fact it wasn't my name on the tag at all, it was my brother Jeff's (Jill and Jeff can look a lot alike in an adult's script handwriting). I felt embarrassed for opening his gift, but he was very small and didn't notice. It turned out to be a Big Wheel, that was definitely too small for me and perfect for him. But in the end, I never got my "big" gift. I pretended to be really happy with my hat, mug and book, but as you can see, I can remember every detail of that night over 30 years ago. It sticks with you, that kind of thing, yes it does.


Larry Slade said...

I don't like to receive gifts. It makes me feel guilty for being so unworthy. It was like that as a child too as long as I can remember. I would want things but would feel bad about getting them.

Is that an actual photo of THE happy face mug?
Perhaps they are so ugly that no one else bought them. Consequently this one is now worth $5,000.

Jill said...

Yes "Larry" that is an exact replica of the mug. I couldn't find a photo of the plate that matched it. You are worthy of getting gifts, and need to embrace them and the love that goes with them.

And what is the meaning of Larry Slade? Where does this come from?

Larry Slade said...

Larry Slade is a character I like in Eugene O'Neill's play The Iceman Cometh.
He is a world weary "one-time Syndicalist-Anarchist" who has left the movement and spends his days spouting off and with the other drunks in Harry Hope's bar. He rooms upstairs, except that they mostly just pass out at the tables in the bar. He sees the world, humanity, as quite hopeless because he has seen a lot and understands human nature. He's the smartest guy in the play. He says things I might say.
Robert Ryan played him in the 1973 movie version, played him very, very well. It's a good version of the play with a lot of great actors in it. It's long and rather dark, not for casual viewing. But well worth it all.
I think The Iceman Cometh is a very great play. I have seen the play twice on Broadway. Once with Jason Robards in the Hickey and recently with Kevin Spacey,

Shana said...

Oh my gosh, I feel like crying - your little story is so sad Jill. If it makes you feel any better he hired the mall Santa to deliver my gifts one year and the guy was so drunk he couldn't make it up the stairs to deliver the gifts, well be tried and failed, he might have even fallen down - so we just all stood in the doorway - I was four and I knew it was awkward ...ah, the Christmas memories.