September 2009 A huge box arrives via UPS. Primo opens it. Oh Lord. It's three pressed wood nesting tables. With hummingbirds painted on them. Ugly as sin.
Bless her heart, Doris has sent us an anniversary present. As far as I'm concerned, the only ones who need to recognize an anniversary are the persons in the marriage, so it is very sweet of her to send us a present at all.
But could these things be any more not to my taste? Hideous.
I call the vendor. Can we return them for cash? Nope. Only exchange. Rats. Double rats because our options are other hummingbird type options. I am not a painted hummingbird type person. At all.
I am thinking perhaps we just put these in the Goodwill pile, even though Doris paid $100 for them - on sale! - when she starts pestering Primo about my October birthday. Would I like this or this or that? She emails him links to various items, none of which he knows I would like.
We decide to address this issue, which has been festering for a while. Doris and Sly send us expensive, yet tacky, presents we neither like, need, nor want, then expect us to spend like amounts on every gift-giving occasion for them.
Indeed, they do things like send us a link to $99 outdoor lights and say, "Give this to Doris for mother's day." $99 for mother's day?! I send my mom a card! Yet they expect $100 for every occasion. That gets expensive and we cannot afford it. I'd rather pay off our mortgage, thank you very much.
I must say in Doris' defense that she has for years asked Primo what he wants and he won't tell her, so he has only himself to blame for a lot of the crap he has gotten. We can send her a list of stuff we want, which she will buy, but we don't need stuff. I would be thrilled if they would chip in for our plane tickets to their place, but Primo doesn't want to do that. What I really want is a moratorium on expensive gift giving. Stop the madness.
Primo writes a thoughtful, tactful email in which he tells his parents that although we appreciate the sentiment behind the gift of the tables, they really do not fit our decor.* He says that we also are not comfortable accepting expensive gifts from them given their financial situation** and would rather see them spending their money on themselves. He says he and I have merged two complete households, we really don't need any stuff, that maybe if they do want to give us presents, they could get us restaurant coupons or pay for our tennis classes.
"I'm sorry my taste isn't to your standards."
When I tell Primo that his mother is passive aggressive, this is the sort of thing I mean. But maybe I am using the wrong terminology. Perhaps passive aggressive is not right. Manipulative? Martyrish?
Doris continues. "Your brothers liked the tables."
Ha. That's a lie. I ask Stephanie if Doris has given her or Jack the tables and she says no and that she hasn't seen them at Jack's. She also says that Ted's wife, Maura, would have just given the tables right away to Goodwill and not said anything.
So Primo has to have a long, long phone call with Doris and Sly about presents. And why we are So Hard to Shop For. He is exhausted by the time it is done, because of course the conversation has to expand to Why Don't You Visit More Often and Why Are You Married To That Woman Anyhow and You Don't Call Enough.
He does, however, emerge victorious with an agreement that we will return the tables for cash that will be used to pay for our tennis classes next summer and that my birthday present, even though I kept waving my hands mouthing, "No presents! Let's agree to NO BIRTHDAY PRESENTS FOR ANYONE!" will be a set of cloth napkins from Crate and Barrel, even though Doris the environmentalist thinks cloth napkins are unsanitary*** which I suppose they would be if you never washed them.
And we think things are fine.
* Which they have seen because they stayed with us for NINE DAYS when we got married. I assure you there is absolutely nothing in our house to indicate a liking of items with hummingbirds painted on them. Or of pressed wood. Nothing.
** They made a business investment that did not end well.
*** I think paper napkins are wasteful for me but great for everyone else because I used to work for a paper company and will someday I hope have a defined benefit pension coming to me so use paper, everyone.