59. Tis Better to Give than to Receive

59. Tis Better to Give than to Receive

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Family Matters

Tis Better to Give than to Receive

Gratitude is the best attitude.

~Author Unknown

In late November, right after Thanksgiving, thoughts of dread and gloom used to start to invade the minds of my family. It’s not that we didn’t enjoy all of the holiday festivities. It’s just that the holidays meant gift giving. And gift giving meant gift receiving. And receiving gifts from my Aunt Beadie was always interesting.

My Aunt Beadie was a really nice person and we did love her. She did tend to be a bit eccentric and always exaggerate the truth… just a tiny little bit. Like the time she told us she thwarted a bank robbery that was in progress and single-handedly detained the robber until the police arrived. Or the time she came screaming down the stairs at my house claiming that there was this huge hole in the floor of my son’s closet and that both of my sons were going to fall through it down into the dining room below. Why hadn’t any of us ever even seen this huge gaping hole in our floor? Why hadn’t my kids fallen through it before? And then there was the time she swore she could hear the conversations going on in my neighbor’s house through the heating ducts in OUR living room. She talked to her dog, too. And of course the dog answered her.

Aunt Beadie raised gift giving to a whole new level, or should I say lowered gift giving to a whole new level. The gifts she gave defied all common sense. Why would my two young sons, ages five and eight at the time, need valets? Now I’m not talking about the living breathing kind of valet who brings you breakfast in bed or irons your newspaper, but the piece of furniture kind of valet on which you hang your suit jacket and tie when you come home from work so they won’t wrinkle. The kind that has a special safe place where you can put your cufflinks and tie tack so you won’t lose them. What was Aunt Beadie thinking? But, I have to tell you, we did actually use those valets. They made a great tent frame. If you place them just so far apart and drape an old sheet over them, voilà—you have a tent.

The matching Hello Kitty nightshirts she gave to my husband and me one year were quite lovely. They were a kind of brown color with the perfect Hello Kitty logo right there on the front and they each came with matching coin purses. Fetching. She had bought both nightshirts in a large size… a child’s size large. Not that we would have worn them anyway. And our boys would not have been caught dead wearing Hello Kitty nightshirts. We donated them, and the coin purses, and I’m sure two little girls were delighted to receive them.

One year we got a talking alarm clock. It didn’t have a clock face but instead spoke the time in a very loud voice so you wouldn’t have to put your glasses on to read it. That could possibly have been useful… if we spoke Russian.

We all got matching terry cloth shower wraps one year that were monogrammed with initials—not our initials but still quite lovely. The boys used them as Superman capes. Never mind about the very tasteful pink flamingo that she got for our yard one year. Now the Magic-8 Ball was actually quite useful. I used to ask it whether or not I should cook dinner. I loved it when the answer was, “My reply is no.”

What do you say to a loving relative with the worst taste in the world? She would sit right there while we opened her gifts, with a big smile on her face. A mere thank you just didn’t seem adequate. So we learned to ad-lib—meaning we learned to lie. “Oh Aunt Beadie, this is amazing. Thank you so much. I have never seen anything quite like this. Oh, the colors are dazzling. I just know this will come in so handy when… oh, I just love it!”

When Aunt Beadie reached her mid-eighties, she decided to stop shopping. No longer would she buy us useless gifts that we would never use. She started giving away useless gifts from her own home—all of the junk that she had been collecting for years and years. Old jars, some without lids, cracked dishes, ashtrays (for our non-smoking household), and much, much more. But the best of all was the jewelry.

None of her jewelry was real. Aunt Beadie knew that. And we knew that too, but she didn’t know that we knew. She always claimed everything was real. The set of six huge spider pins was one of my favorite gifts. They were gold (gold-colored metal) with jade (cloudy green glass) centers. I hate spiders! The pins creeped me out—they went right in the trash but I wrapped them in newspaper first to be sure they wouldn’t escape. The “ruby” earrings were so ugly and so heavy I was afraid they would pull my ear lobes off if I even tried to put them on. And where could I possibly wear them? Trash! Immediately! And how about the tiara? Please don’t forget about the diamond (clear glass) and emerald (green glass) tiara. Now that was a keeper. I actually wore it… to a fiftieth birthday party when I went as the prom queen!

Sadly Aunt Beadie passed away a few years ago. Not to worry. Her daughter, my cousin, has taken up right where Aunt Beadie left off. Ethel is very busy “finding treasures” in Aunt Beadie’s closets and drawers to wrap up and give to us as tokens of love. And although our sons are grown and have families of their own now, they still dread the “special gifts” they know that they, and their children, will receive. I, too, can hardly wait to see what is in store for us this year.

~Maddie Sohn

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