Sad story about gift giving.
|“I want you over here tomorrow morning with all the presents we gave you. You gave us nothing but junk, and we spent good money on you, girl. While you’re at it, bring back your birthday present, too.”
I hung up the phone stunned. Shocked. Saddened. But I wanted to be a good daughter and do what she said, to obey her like I always have. I would bring back all her and my step-dad’s Christmas gifts. The sooner the better too, so I could be done with it…with her. I knew it would be another two years since we spoke.
I was around 24 years of age, a grown up. A single woman working as a nurse. I had a cozy apartment to call my own. Mom was right about one thing… I was selfish, or so I thought, but I didn’t think I meant to be. I had this secret fear that I was going to go broke someday and have to live at a mission or in a tent. So the less I spent the better. Knowing that God took care of his flock by clothing and feeding them wasn’t enough for me. I had to work for it.
“Teach your children how to give good gifts…teach them to be generous.” Mom was in the front seat of the Dodge Wagon with my step-dad, lecturing me on how to be a good citizen, an approved and responsible adult. I was obviously lacking in those areas and she was trying to make a point. She turned back to the front and set her eyes on the road, probably feeling as smug as she looked. It felt so wrong to listen to her, but she had to be right, she was my mom.
We were all sitting together in my aunt’s living room, taking turns opening gifts. The “trick” underwear had already been given and tried on by whoever was chosen to receive them that year. I don’t recall who got them and it doesn’t really matter, because I was being embarrassed by my own mother, in front of all these people I grew up with and loved.
I gave my mom a small serving platter that I had gotten free, a sort of “re-gifting,” they call it now. She held it up for all to see and told me out loud what a cheap piece of crap it was, demanding to know where I got it. I think I told her I got it from a popular mail-order company as a thank you for buying something. She set it down, and it was now someone else’s turn to open a present.
When it got back to mom again, she opened another one of my presents, a short- sleeved, knitted sweater. My best friend picked one up for me and I loved it so much I wanted mom to have one too. Only problem was, it was from a Target clearance rack for five dollars. She held it up for all to see and demanded to know where I got such a thing. I told her and her face turned beet red. She then demanded to know how much I paid for it. I told her and the rest of the room, because when mama asks you a question, a good daughter always answers, even if it might cost her her soul in the end. “I thought so,” she said and set it aside, like the rest.
By the time it was my little brother’s turn, she was on alert. He was about to open a present from me, a sweater that I thought he might like. Mom again demanded to know where I got it, stating loudly, “That is too small for him, take it back.” She told him to hold it up so she could see it. He did. I cringed. I knew it was the end for me. I knew I should have shopped at Macy’s.
That evening after I got home, mom called. I had by tomorrow to get all her presents back to her house. And to remember to bring my birthday gift back as well. That too had cost “good money.”
I did what a nice daughter would do. I obeyed and brought them all back. Case closed. It was another year or more before we spoke. By that time, I hated Christmas. I didn’t want to see another Christmas holiday as long as I lived. Besides, what is the big deal? Where in the bible does it say the Wise Men bought each other gifts of Nintendo, or Xbox, or other expensive gifts? They didn’t. They gave them to the birthday boy. Shouldn’t Christmas be about doing something for Jesus rather than lavish everyone with gifts that will be eventually thrown out, or sold at a garage sale? It hurt me every year when I’d be at mom’s garage sales and see presents that I bought them, being labeled for sale. By then, I had wizened up and gave them expensive gifts. All my siblings learned my lesson: this woman demands good gifts only. It scared my sister-in-law so bad that even she dreads Christmas now.
As a mother of three, I would be honored to receive a simple blade of grass from any one of my children. No strings attached, no expectations, no fear. Just love.