The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, January 12, 2007


Country Lines Re-gifting

Does this sound familiar? You open up the festively festooned box from Aunt Tilly and unwrap the winsome gnome she picked up while crossing the Alps and whose face, she has written in her Christmas card, reminds her of you. Never mind what that says about your looks; after thinking, "What will I ever do with this?," your next thought is, "Susan at the office lines these sort of things up next to her desk, and I am her Secret Santa" Come on, admit it, before considering the Swap Shed or the Salvation Army, we often, at least briefly, consider re-gifting.

There's no shame in occasionally rerouting a gift-gone-wrong, but sometimes the process can get out of hand. Many years ago, my brother Ed gave my father a shirt for Christmas — a brown and gold plaid seersucker sport shirt, pretty gruesome, really, but that's the kind of gift that Ed always thought my father liked. Once he gave Dad a plastic portrait of John Wayne and my father couldn't help exclaiming when he opened it, "What the heck am I going to do with this?!" So that Christmas, Ed gave Dad the couture-challenged shirt and Dad smiled (or grimaced, it was hard to tell) and put it aside. End of the story, I assumed, another wayward gift consigned to Goodwill.

However, in April, at Ed's birthday party, Dad handed Ed a gift box and, lo and behold, inside lay the shirt, still in pristine condition, cellophane-wrapped and pinned. Boy, did my other brothers laugh — until June, when, in yet another elaborately wrapped box, Ed passed along the shirt to Dave on his birthday. Not only was this gift getting a longer shelf life than it deserved, but each time it made an appearance, its wrappings were gaudier and gaudier. My brother Charles was taken by no surprise whatsoever when the shirt appeared amongst his pile of gifts at his birthday in July. To complete the circle, the shirt, like the proverbial bad penny, was the gift of honor at Dad's birthday gathering on August 27. After that, I think an unspoken truce was called, or perhaps it was because we have no family birthdays in the fall. Whatever the reason, the shirt languished in Dad's closet until November, when he realized that my fiancé's birthday was November 20. One weekend, my father called Steve into his room, and after 15 minutes my poor fiancé reemerged, bearing the well-traveled shirt, now his birthday present. I'll give my husband-to-be credit; he unwrapped that hideous shirt and wore it to Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Ed's, Dave's, Charlie's and my father's birthdays for an entire year, until finally it disappeared into the Goodwill collection box (who could have done that?).

I treasure the photos I have of Steve wearing that shirt, and when you think of it, it had a pretty good run for something so badly conceived. It truly was the gift that kept on giving.

2007 The Carlisle Mosquito