Thursday, January 19, 2012

In which we have our own Gift of the Magi with Sly and Doris

You have all been wondering, "How did Christmas go with Sly and Doris this year? What present could they give that would top a framed photo of themselves and a cast-iron cat?"

No present could top a framed photo of themselves and a cast-iron cat. But that doesn't mean they didn't try.

First, we had the usual birthday drama. My repeated attempts via Primo to kill all birthday gift giving have met with failure. Doris won't give it up. I guess I don't care about her giving it up as much as I care about us giving it up. Couldn't we please just stop sending things to people who already have more crap than they will ever need? Present detente, please.

She sent link after link to Primo, asking him if I would like this or that.

Primo has known me for six years. He knows my taste. He doesn't even need to ask me if the fuzzy scarf with the pompoms is to my liking. He knows. He knows I would recoil in horror.

After several turndowns, however, and after ignoring Primo's gentle hints that if Doris really felt compelled to give me a gift, perhaps renewing my Cooks Illustrated magazine subscription or giving us tickets to a play might be something I would really, really like, Doris made an executive decision that what I really lacked in my life was a $68 bud vase hand painted with butterflies and blue asters.

I am not knocking hand painted vases with butterflies and blue asters. Too much. Some people like that kind of thing. I like leopard print. Some people might rightfully call that tacky. I might even call it tacky. I do keep it under control by limiting it to my beautiful new Spanish shoes and to my gloves, but I would happily drape myself in leopard print from head to toe. Everyone has her thing.

Mine is just not flowery adornment on household items. I like things to be elegant, simple versions of what they are. (With the leopard print exception, of course.) I want a vase to be heavy crystal. I want a table to be buffed, rich maple. I want pearls to be lustrous and un-accessorized. It's just how I roll. I don't want hummingbirds and hibiscus painted on my tables. I don't want flowers painted on my vases. I don't want bunnies and pom-poms on my scarves.

And there is nothing Doris has ever seen of me or of my home to give any indication that I would like such a thing.

So she sent me the vase. And I had to write a thank you note thanking her for the gift and the thought without saying anything too complimentary about the vase so as not to encourage her.

Of course I sent a note. If nothing else, she took time, effort and money to try to please me. It is ungracious not to acknowledge that. Although you guys already know that I am an ingrate. I am, however, an ingrate with good manners. I always write a thank you note. Always.

Then I hunted through the entire unaallavolta website to find something that I actually would like. It was not easy.

Yes, I know I sound like a bitch. But Primo has tried and tried to get them to stop, to no avail.

I finally found a red evening bag that was not made with Chinese slave labor, but what I really wanted was a magazine subscription renewal.

Then came Christmas. Primo spent Thanksgiving with his mom and dad. I did not join him. That was Primo's gift to me. I have not been to Sly and Doris' for two years and it's been a great two years.

I know you think I exaggerate, but Sly and Doris were insulted that I did not go. Not that they wanted me there, but they want to be the ones to reject me. Doris told Primo that it was my job to "kiss [their] asses to be accepted," just as she had had to do with Sly's family.

I asked Primo if it wouldn't be a better reaction to say, "My in-laws treated me horribly so I vowed never to be that way because I want my son and his wife to want to spend time with me," but when someone drinks four ounces of bourbon every day at 4:00 just to get started, perhaps the capacity for rational thought disappears.

Primo spent ten days at their house this summer, doing their chores, and then five days at Thanksgiving.

When December rolled around, his mom asked him why he wasn't going to be there for Christmas. We had decided at the last minute to go to Spain so Primo could get enough miles to keep his platinum status for 2012. He got my ticket with FF miles and all the hotels with hotel points, so it was a relatively inexpensive trip.

"Florida is warmer than Spain," Doris noted in her email to him, "and just as glamorous and festive." She said we could rent her housekeeper's condo rather than stay with her and Sly.

Primo turned her down. In her Christmas letter, before she got to the part about how the world is going to hell in a handbasket, she noted that she and Sly were going to be lonely on Christmas because nobody would be visiting them.

Shocking that nobody wants to spend time with people who complain all day and start drinking at 4:00 p.m.

Where was I? This is not a post complaining about their drinking. I was talking about gifts. Which is something only an ingrate does so feel free to look upon me with disdain for even discussing this. I know it's poor form. But it's an addiction. I can't help it. I'm a victim.

Primo has been unhappy with the state of the pepper mill at Sly and Doris' for a while. "It's a crummy pepper mill," he said. "I'm going to send them a good one for Christmas."

We got them new knives a few years ago. By the time Sly and Doris die, we will have upgraded their kitchen completely.

"That's fine," I said. We had gotten my mom theater tickets to Jersey Boys - very good seats - so I didn't feel I was in a position to complain about a $40 pepper mill. Although I will note that the plane tickets and rental car to Sly and Doris' place - oh, heck, you know how I feel about all that already.

The day that the pepper mill arrived at Sly and Doris', we got our present from them: a gift certificate to a spice store in Texas.

Which is crazy on so many levels.

1. We live in the city where Penzey's is headquartered. Penzey's, for those who do not know, is one of the biggest spice stores in the country.

2. We do almost no mail order except for Primo's addiction. OK, we do mail order, but not for things we can buy at a store 1.4 miles from our house.

3. Who buys $50 worth of spices at once?

Not that the store sells only spices. It also sells cookbooks, including cookbooks for cat food, in case we should decide to start making our own cat food someday, which is highly unlikely, aprons, fish-shaped platters, bulldog bottle openers, storage canisters with chili peppers painted on them, and dog-shaped butter dishes.

It also sells the $40 pepper mill that Primo sent to his parents.

Which is the only item on the company's website that we might ever have been interested in buying.

Which we surely would have bought for Sly and Doris had we known, but for the first time in his life, Primo was early with a gift - we were not driving to the post office at 4:55 to drop off Doris' birthday card in a next-day envelope - and had it all taken care of in advance.

Does anyone want a bulldog bottle opener? I can get you a good deal.


  1. I swear these people cannot be real. You need to write a pilot for a tv show about Sly and Doris!

  2. Every year I get a Christmas gift from my dad and step-mom that makes me wonder if they've ever met me. They're not evil, just a little set in their ways, and not at all convinced that I'm not the kind of person to want a sweater with a cardinal on it. Fortunately, my sister is that kind of person, so she kept my sweater and sent me an iTunes gift card.

    Would you like my sister's address?

  3. I would think you were making them up, except I know people that have the same kind of in-laws, except with less drinking (so maybe even less of an excuse). My mother-in-law IS the one who was treated like crap by her own MIL and so is extra-nice to me to make up for it. For Christmas last year she gave me a leopard-print hat (true story). It's not really me, but it kicks the crap out of a cast iron cat.

  4. I try to keep my gift expectations low. My aunt gave me lemongrass soap and potholders with bluebirds on them for my birthday. I donated them to the Goodw1ll which is where your vase should go!

  5. P.S. Do you know there are legitimate websites that buy gift certificates? Depending on the store, they give you a certain percentage of the value. Check it out!

  6. Bibliomama, I'm glad you have a good MIL. Maybe we could trade presents - I would love a leopard-print hat. But I understand that it's not everyone's cup of tea.

    Lindy, Goodwill should get a lot of our stuff! But I have a hard time donating something worth $68 that I haven't even used. Also, I don't think poor people want ugly vases, either.

    That gift certificate selling is a great idea!

  7. Ms Mindless, whom would I cast in those roles? I have to think about that. TV is a great idea!

    Rubi, yes. I would like your sister's address.

  8. I could probably manage the bud vase; do I have anything to swap? Why couldn't she at least have gotten you one painted with leopard spots?

    I LOVE leopard! It's my favorite colour! I have two or three different leopard print hats (yes, but I have at least two hundred hats), leopard scarves, gloves, BOOTS,a bag, a couple of leopard-print silk dresses, at least six leopard skirts, a really nice jacket (printed, not fur), some blouses, a big chunk of leftover fake fur from a production of Hamlet, two different chunks of velvet, waiting for production ...

    It's easy to wind up with a lot of leopard. And NO, I don't wear all of it together, I'm not in a Cher skit! That's why it's easy to wind up with a lot of it, because something else is always being worn with it.

    Couldn't the cast iron cat at least come in handy as a, as a hand weight? Or a blunt instrument?

    What about sending each other catalogs with Preferred Items handily marked? That way they can choose amongst the marked items, and have a chance of getting you something you like, and (if you care) you can do the same. And it'll still be a surprise. You might have more success with that than with No More Gifts, PLEASE. Or buy them very large gifts which will take up too much room.

    Someone needs to come up with a What Were They Thinking?? Swap Site, where people just put up pictures and descriptions of the items that are Too Good To Dump, Too Awful To Keep. You send in your $68 bud vase, you can pick out $68 worth of Swap Stuff that you want, or hoard your Swap Credits until something comes in. And even if nothing you want ever comes in, you haven't thrown out something someone else could use, you've Swapped it for glorious free empty storage space!

    If you buy saffron to cook with, I bet you could use up that $50 pretty quickly. I know I could. Endorr some eggs, or something!

    I know I've gotten some pretty strange gifts ... the kind that I think to myself, "Have we ever even met?"


    1. I love your idea of the swap site. We would have to charge a transaction fee or else how do we get rich?

      The store did not have saffron. It does, however, have an alligator-shaped stuffed jalapeno holder. Which is just what everyone needs.


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