Happy Father's Day! No Gift-Wrap Required

4 years ago

A long time ago, when my parents were still married, my mother gave my father a set of steak knives for Father’s Day. I was probably fifteen or so and I remember thinking “hmm. Knives. Interesting choice.”

Of course, the knives weren’t as bad as the time my father bought my mother a vacuum cleaner. For Christmas. It was her “big” present and he spent a long time showing her all the cool attachments: “look! This one lets you clean between the slots in the radiators!”


Image: asenat29 via Flickr


Somewhat surprisingly, mom didn’t share his enthusiasm.

I’ve always wondered about that present, which even as a girl of twelve I knew was a Really Bad Idea. I mean, what went through my father’s head as the holidays approached? Did he walk unmoved through the aisles of sweaters and jewelry, books and records (CDs hadn’t been invented yet), then see the display of Hoovers & Electroluxes and think yep, that’s it, just what the little lady needs from Santa?

At the vacuum cleaner Christmas, I think my parents had been married maybe for fifteen years; they stayed married for maybe another twenty, and I think that vacuum lasted right up to the bitter end.

Gifts. They’re a bitch, aren’t they? What to get, where to get, and my personal bête noire: how to wrap whatever it is. Wrapping leaves me cold. I admire those who put effort into wrapping, but my packages are always a little too over-taped, under-ribboned, and generally sort of half-assed.  It doesn’t mean I don’t love the gift recipient any less; it’s just that I don’t know why I’m supposed to wrap whatever it is I’m giving to you.  I’m a recycled wrapping paper user, a user of last week’s newspapers that I “decorate” with hand-drawn hearts and flowers.  When it’s time for my kids to bring birthday presents to friends, I’m told that I have to get “real” wrapping paper or my flawed DIY sensibility will cause my kids to die of mortification. I’m chagrined to admit that I think my dad wrapped the vacuum cleaner box with newspaper, but at least I’ve never given anyone a chore-related item as a gift.

My husband, however, is good at gifts. He wraps well, too: the corners on his packages are always tidy; ribbons are curled; he buys appropriate wrapping paper and gift cards.  He’s the one who reminds me, on the boys’ birthdays, that I should get the boys what they want, not necessarily what I think they should have. Usually this advice results in more Legos or arcana related to “League of Legends,” the twelve-year old’s latest idee fixe. And while sometimes the idea of adding to the Lego mountain, or feeding the MMOG monster, I think Husband is right: a gift is for the other person – not an opportunity to upgrade the knife drawer or vanquish the dust-bunnies. 

I try to remember that advice when I’m searching for presents for Husband, but it’s difficult: he’s a tech-addict with very precise ideas about gadgets (most of which he buys himself before I can even do preliminary groundwork); he buys books the way most people buy coffee.  And I think buying a man a tie is sort of like a man buying a woman a purse: everyone really wants to pick out those things for themselves, so then you’ve bothered to wrap something that no one really wants.  Plus this whole gift-giving thing gets increasingly difficult the longer you’re together: after fifteen-plus years of marriage, what is there left to give? (Although should Husband be reading this post, you should know that it’s always appropriate to give me things that sparkle. Just FYI).

Sunday is Father’s Day in the States, but in Abu Dhabi, Sunday starts the work week: no outside barbecuing with a cold beer for Husband today.  We will, however, play hooky this afternoon and have a long lunch somewhere nice, with maybe a walk on the beach afterwards.

A meal out. That’s the perfect gift. Always appropriate, always fits, and you don’t have to wrap it.

Happy Father’s Day to my lovely husband, who is also a great father. And who would never, ever give me a vacuum. 




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