52: It’s Really the Thought that Counts

52: It’s Really the Thought that Counts

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Married Life!

It’s Really the Thought that Counts

I love being married. It’s so great to find that one special person
you want to annoy for the rest of your life.

~Rita Rudner

The men in my family have a long and sordid history of giving heinous gifts. The official records only go back a few generations but if we could see into history and watch my great-great-great-grandfather bestow a gift upon his pioneer bride it would probably have been Confederate war bonds, a tract of oceanfront property in Kansas, or a sixteen-year-old lame mule when she had asked for laying hens.

The first Christmas my dad celebrated with a new girlfriend he gave her a large wrapped box. As the paper came away she laughed and told her mother, “It’s in a router box, how funny.” That might have been hilarious if the box had contained anything but a router. Which it didn’t. In my poor father’s defense, she had said she liked woodworking. Or was that woodwork? Wood-burning stoves? Walking in the woods? Love can be just as deaf as it is blind some days.

Even once the first blush of love wore off, my father’s gift giving didn’t get any better. When presented with a lovely Ping-Pong table, my stepmother nodded, smiled, and resolved from then on to purchase her own gifts and just let my father sign the card.

It was evident the gene had not skipped a generation when my brother presented his wife with a Swiffer for Mother’s Day. Not just any Swiffer. It was a special occasion after all, so this was the Swiffer that squirts cleaner with the flick of a trigger and even vacuums crumbs. His thinking was that his neatnik wife would like nothing more than something to make her job easier. Are you surprised he’s no longer married to wife number one? Me neither.

The lack of talent for gift giving is carried on the Y chromosome and is highly contagious. So when my husband married into the family, it was only a matter of time before he became infected. It was our second married Christmas, I believe, when he did the bulk of his shopping at a small-town dollar store and presented me with… I kid you not… a plastic food scale. Were I a more gracious receiver, I might have taken it a little easier on him. Or at least kept my mouth shut. Instead, such marital hell rained down that we immediately made a trip to see Jake the Jeweler.

If it’s the thought that counts, I hesitate to wonder what he must have been thinking about me when he made that choice! To help him focus during subsequent holidays, I created a list to help him choose a bit more wisely.


1. Think of me when I’m not with you. It doesn’t count as a gift if I have to pull it off the shelf and hand it to you or, worse, pay for it along with my groceries. I’m happy to make a list, circle pictures in a catalog, register at Target even, but don’t make me buy it myself.


2. Think not of anything pluggable. Electronics are fun but usually not gift-quality. iPods, maybe. Hard drives, DVD burners, SD cards, or clock radios are not. Coffeemakers, toasters, and mixers are fine if I happen to be a new bride, not an old wife.


3. Think not of you. Gifts for you are not gifts for me. Don’t get me a new laptop because you want to use it to play World of Warcraft online. And we both know who enjoys lingerie more. Have you noticed that I don’t wear that sparkly bustier to soccer practice on Saturday morning?


4. Think not of making it yourself. Homemade gifts are acceptable from the children. But unless you’re brewing a batch of boutique beer or have developed skill in building Amish furniture, don’t go there.


5. Think not of critters. Pets are not presents. They are the opposite of presents. Cleaning up hairballs, scraping doo-doo off my shoes, or being gnawed on while I trim nails aren’t usually effective marketing ploys.


6. Think of something new. Replacing the piece of my grandmother’s china that you dropped or the cell phone that fell into the pool is not a gift. Yes, I would love it. The same way I’d love it if you wrapped up my favorite sweater, the dinner I just made, or one of our small children. It’s already mine.


7. Think in advance. Internet shopping has opened a world of new stores to those of us living on the rural outskirts of nowhere. However, you must allow for shipping time. If you wait, you can choose to pay the extra to ship it fast or pay by sleeping on the couch when there isn’t anything under the tree for me. Your choice.


My five-year-old son is already being trained to be a better gift giver than his forefathers. But if the electric lime socks I got for Mother’s Day are any indication, his girlfriends and wives will suffer the same fate as the rest of the women in our family. It’s okay. On their wedding day I’ll slip her the number for Jake the Jeweler. He’ll take good care of her.


~Becky Tidberg

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