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.