And the award goes to…

My grandmother is a master. I’m not sure if she realizes this; judging by her apparent dementia, my best guess is that she does not. However, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the woman is madly skilled and finding and gifting the exact thing that is furthest from what I would want or even think of. It’s not that what she gives is something towards which I would feel adversely; it’s that the things are completely unpredictable, mostly unimaginable, and slightly insulting. And not only is she a master of choosing these gifts, she has proven herself to be a master of one-upmanship.

This all started years ago when the woman, just a greenhorn in her present senility, sent me for Christmas a pair of basketball shorts. Despite being completely inept in the ways of ball-handling, that in itself was not necessarily a bad thing. But these shorts were Nike basketball shorts. At the time, I was in seventh or eighth grade and was trying to find a sport that did not involved inflated rubber bladders and had recently discovered skating. Thus, out of principle, I had to scoff at Nike. Let me elaborate further: these basketball shorts were silver Nike shorts. Had I been given a pair of silver shorts today, I would have gladly embraced them instead of sending them back to her and asking for a normal color. But this was back in middle school when I was trying to be cool, not aiming to be ostracized. That year brought about the tradition of sending back whatever gift I receive to be get a new color or size which eventually turned from tradition into a ban on my grandmother sending any clothing except for size large t-shirts.

Not expecting much in the way of sentimentality, the family at home did not even bother opening Grandma’s gift on Christmas morning. My mother must have has some insight that the contents of the box were not going to depart from tradition and thus wanted to keep the special occasion all for itself. I’m not sure what exactly clued my mother in on this, but I suppose it could have been the call that came a few days before Christmas when her mother expressed her appreciation for the gift my mom sent and thought my mother was some kind of psychic for knowing exactly what she wanted. This call came about a week after another call where my grandmother told my mom exactly what she wanted.

Thus, my mother took extra care to not make anybody else aware of the gifts from my grandmother. It was not until mid-afternoon when my dad asked about the box that was addressed to Dr. and Mrs. William (I’d like to take this moment to inform you that my surname, and for that matter, my parents’ surname, is not William) sitting in the entryway of the house that my mother acknowledged it and declined opening it until that evening.

Knowing that opening the box was going to be some kind of small spectacle, all of us at the house gathered around around like Native Americans around a wagon train in Oregon Trail (here’s a hint: stock up on trinkets, you get the best deal when bartering), ready to receive wondrous curiosities. My sister received something that was evidently meant to be a birthday gift. But what mattered most were the gifts that labeled “Neil” (take a look here if you think this is not a problem. Let me remind you that she’s my grandmother and should know how yo spell my name): one small and soft, tagged with a Post-it note, the other larger, yet still soft adorned with a card. Now, when I specify soft, I mean soft in the way that some item of clothing, wrapped but not in a box, might feel.

Tearing the paper from the smaller of the two presents, I exposed a white t-shirt. Printed upon such white t-shirt was a message in loopy, yet seriffed font reading: Work for God, the retirement benefits are great. My issue with the shirt is not in the message itself although it’s kitchiness was sickening and it lacked totally in creativity, and for those reasons alone, I would never buy this for myself or wear it anywhere except maybe if I was doing manual labor, but definitely not if I were doing said labor with another person. No, it was not the words that bothered me, the connotations are what bothered me. First, I’m twenty-three. I’m not thinking about retirement benefits. This shirt makes sense for somebody who’s nearer to “retiring” or to retirement. But I do not generally think about my own death. More so, I’m looking to actually get a job, not to quit! My grandmother is obviously aware of my current state of unemployedness and, obviously, she thinks that doesn’t matter. and obviously wants to remind me that I have no job.

Taking a moment to regain my composure to read the card. I realize that there is no specific etiquette regulating how to do cards at Christmas. In my opinion, a gift or a card suffices. But this really is dependent on personal preference and how well you know some people. But for the five of us who were recipients of the package, there were at least seven cards of the same set–and each of them was devoid of a personal message except for the underlining of “He is the reason for the season.” What was even more of a surprise was the variation in how the cards were signed. “Gramma and Grampa,” “Grandma and Dad,” and “Nanny and Grampa” were just three of them. Now, we siblings have never referred to Grandma as Nanny and “Grandma and Dad” was just special!

Already, the box had proven to be both slightly insulting and had provided some good entertainment. But I was only half-way through my gifts. I only had to tear a little paper to see that whatever it was. It was tie-died. From anybody else, tie-died would have been a great thing. But these were tie-died pants made of fleece. These were tie-died Grandma Pants fleece pants that are about seven sizes too large (do I look that fat in the pictures?).

And really, the pants speak for themselves and speak quite loudly:

So thank you very much g’ma. Oh, Grandma, while you have done it again but I am not backing down. Let me tell you, I’m keeping these pants. Not only that, I’m going to wear them!

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4 Responses to “And the award goes to…”

  1. NEAL. WHAT.

    I miss you! Ha ha!

  2. If only I had thought to blog all the gifts my grandma has sent me over the years, you could see how violently parallel our gift-receiving experiences have been. Mine has since deferred to sending only money, and sometimes several times for the same occasion. I am okay with this. What’s more, she lives in Spokane.

    You gotta appreciate that shirt though, it’s priceless. The ironic value is through the roof, but the intent was so sincere. Arg. So great.

    Anyway, good job, well written. Oh, and I’m friends with that KJT kid if you are wondering.

  3. I can attest to receiving multiple gifts for the same occasion. I think it was Christmas 06 I received two identical sets of gifts: a shirt with a message about duct tape and one of the Duct Tape Guys’ books which brought the total number of that same book I possessed up to four (I had received it twice for my high school graduation).

    Honestly, I cannot say that I’ve appreciated the intent. It has been too easy to forget that when caught in the moment and the associated pain/joy/wonderment. Thanks for the reminder and thanks for reading.

  4. I love the fact that she misspelled your name. That’s what really makes this post for me.

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