Saturday, December 26, 2009

A cheapskate's Christmas gift to his wife

From the Parkville Luminary

I have no skills.

This stark realization is especially apparent this Christmas day. You see, this year, because we’re cheap and broke, my extended family decided to draw names, and to make inexpensive gifts for the drawee, rather than buy them. My crafty wife, for example, is crocheting a scarf for her father, while my talented son is painting a bird house for his lucky gift recipient. As for me, I can’t crochet, draw, paint, knit, sew, sing, dance, or rhyme; I can’t use a hammer, screwdriver, nails, a glue gun, stapler, or any kind of saw (unless I want to risk losing some useful body parts).

I pity the person whose name I drew, knowing that they would be doomed to gift-recipient purgatory, since the only thing I can remotely do (with remote being the operative word) is this: write a Christmas column as a gift.

As I drew the name, I was hoping to select my mother in law, Joan. Pronounced Joanne, her misspelled name is only the first thing that I can give her trouble about. Suffice it to say that she’s an easy target, and would’ve been the subject of an entertaining column. I have been teasing her for years. My favorite gag was the time that I sent in a business reply card with her name and address on it to a funeral home. The guy from the funeral home—the undertaker!!—actually showed up at her home, unannounced, to discuss her “arrangements”. I’m thinking he had a tape measure in hand, even though he wouldn’t need to use much of it, since Joan is comically short. Unfortunately, I didn’t draw Joan’s name, so I guess I can’t write about her.

I could have also drawn the name of one of the 274 Park University international students for whom we serve as official or unofficial host family. Had I drawn Nadia, for example, I could have made blonde jokes. Now, she’s no longer a blonde, but that doesn’t preclude jokes about how the blonde dye soaked into her brain. (She’s actually very smart, but I don’t think I would have mentioned that). I could have written about Ana, or, as we call her, the “Cleaning Nazi”. You see, Ana has a dictatorial passion for house cleaning that borders on fanaticism. When she starts cleaning, my son and I wisely evacuate the premises, afraid that she will make us scrub toilets with a toothbrush. Had I drawn Aziz, I could have analyzed at length why he doesn’t lead when he dances. Sadly, I did not draw any of these students, either.

My father in law would also have made an interesting column. Actually, all I would have to do is have him repeat one of his entertaining tall tales, and it would have filled an entire column, perhaps two. But alas, my wife drew her father’s name, and, fortunately for him, he got a cool red scarf, rather than a lame column.

So, as fate would have it, I was surprised when I unfolded the slip of paper to reveal the name I drew—Barbara, my wife. Now, if you are regular readers of this column, you’ve already read a great deal about Barbara, and probably remember that she sent me to the Republic of Georgia a few years back with only three pairs of holey underwear. You may also remember that she and I like to play “Scrabble” frequently, although, at our age, we don’t get as many double word scores as we used to. And you probably recall that she cries at anything and everything. For example, she cries every year during the “every time a bell rings an angel gets its wings” conclusion of her favorite movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life”. My son and I roll our eyes at all this corniness and her balling, which, in the past, has included tears shed over a movie of the week wherein the hero dies and is reincarnated as a dolphin. Canned tuna, anyone?

Though she is irredeemably corny, we love her anyway, largely because she’s really, really sweet. Barbara works with kids who have autism, and we think this makes her somewhat of a saint. She also works with the boy and I, and this definitely makes her a saint. She would pack up and leave tomorrow to join the Peace Corps or work at Mother Teresa’s orphanage if she could. (Actually, this is what we’re going to do when we retire).

So, Barbara, wipe away those tears, and accept my heart-felt wishes for a wonderful Christmas and a Happy Birthday (Dec. 31). Let’s draw names again next year. Maybe I can get Joan.


  1. You always write about your inlaws but never mention your own family. Are your parents deceased? Do you have brothers and sisters. Just wondering.

  2. Dear Mom:

    Thanks for reading.

    Love, your son

  3. P.S. In-laws is hyphenated, not one word.

    Love you lots, Your son