Thursday, December 24, 2009

Secret Santa

"Gift Giving is the purest expression of friendship. I'm going to think about what I know and like about you and that will lead me to the perfect gift, and you do the same....."
"Soooo...bath salts in a coffee mug... would be... not it?"
"Do you really think you belong on Mr. Donaghy's personal gift list? He's the Best Gift Giver in the World. I tried once. I bought him a $95 dollar bottle of olive oil. In return, he got my sister out of a North Korean jail. You will never match him."
--30 Rock

Gift Giving is a blood sport in my family. I shop all year long and the two biggest risks you face if you're on my gift list is: 1. I will hide the presents so well, I won't be able to find them when Christmas or your birthday comes around; and 2. I will get so excited about what I find that you'll end up with it long before Christmas or birthdays.... and there may not be anything cool left when the big day comes. It's mostly about the Stockings -- that's the big tradition in my family -- small items, nothing too expensive, just excruciatingly thoughtful.

This is how I ended up at the Poor People Wal-Mart today. Christmas Eve. At 2 in the afternoon. Where I would normally not be caught dead any day of the year, much less holiday shopping. (Though when I've been in for office supplies, I've been tirelessly impressed at the way poor people buy food there -- with carts full of cilantro and avocados -- instead of the HoHos and Diet Cokes you find in the carts over in my white trash Wal-Marts.) There was no parking for a 100 miles, so I crossed the road and found a parking lot adjacent to a bank that's owned by a friend of mine. They kinda know me there, so I pecked on the glass and told them if they towed me, I'd have them fired. Then we all laughed and I wished them a Merry Christmas. (He lives within walking distance of my Mom, so if I had gotten towed, I would go over to his house Christmas Day and steal one of his cars in retribution.)

It was all a giant cluster-F of futility anyway. Because Wal-Mart didn't have the Acer netbook that my Mom wants. Or more specifically, they didn't have the Acer she wants, at the price she wants. That's key. Otherwise, I could've had this wrapped up months ago. I wanted to have my geek-husband order one of his high-end netbooks for me (at cost), and trick it out, state-of-the-art. But no. She started seeing the Acers in all those Thanksgiving ads for $199. And this struck her as a fair price. More accurately, anything one penny over $199 now qualifies as highway robbery. Put another way: if I paid more than $199. for a netbook for her, what I would endure is endless recriminations (and possibly tears) about the Economy, and more than one story about her mythical friend who has a daughter who lives in the Rupp Arena parking lot, and warms herself over their heating vents, and bathes at the YMCA.... Because isn't the true meaning of Christmas predicated on the twin values of guilt and fear?

Wal-Mart had plenty of Acers -- all theoretically marked down for Christmas Eve -- to about $349. Which is not even close. I was pretty sure I could wrangle a gift receipt out of them that would leave the price blank, but here's what would happen. She would go to exchange it for another color or something....and they would somehow tell her she had a leftover credit or something, divulging the actual price. (No, it would not bother me to lie to my Mother in the spirit of Christmas, but it would bother me for her to find out about it.)

So I left emptyhanded, mad in the first place that I couldn't just get her what she needed, and mad in the second case that the boys didn't already have this taken care of because technology and gadgets is THEIR job --- my job is keeping all four parents alive while coordinating cardiologists, oncologists, immunologists, surgeons, and nurses for them all year round, along with up to the minute psychopharmaceutical research, augmented by an occasional assist from my own tribe of friends in law and medicine -- depending on how bad any given crisis has gotten.

So yeah, I think they coulda managed a trip to Best Buy.

And that blood coming out of my ears? "It's definitely not a rage stroke."

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