Abby's Road: The challenges of gift giving
I like to give gifts that can be measured calorically. In my book, you haven’t really said thank you, or Happy Birthday, or sorry about your appendix, if you haven’t handed over a bottle of wine, or a cake made of cookies, or the gluten-free brownies you doubt are at all enjoyable.
Recently, my parents’ 35th wedding anniversary was upon us. By “us,” I mean myself and my three younger sisters. And by making my parents’ milestone about us, I do recognize that I am entirely missing the point.
Nevertheless, acting independently of my sisters is always a gulp-first type of experience. This is never more true than on occasions calling for gift giving.
That is, of course, because calorically measurable gifts carry with them the secondary risks of not being ripe, not being delivered in one piece, or not being appreciated. If you have never set a dangerously sloping ice cream cake down next to a beautifully wrapped set of wine glasses, my self-help book will be a waste of your time.
Back to my parents’ anniversary. They had the nerve to celebrate by taking a trip – out of state – on a weekend I needed a babysitter. Apparently, one of the keys to their marriage is that they’re both OK with leaving their children in the lurch. (Just kidding. Love you guys. But please don’t go away the weekend of July 13. We have another party to go to.)
So back to my parents’ anniversary. I had just spent a lot of mental energy planning a Father’s Day present for my dad. I was really struggling with the quick turnaround on the anniversary. After confirming via spreadsheet that my parents like very few of the same foods – even food groups – I cursed my life and considered emancipating myself to a couple of vegans.
When I realized how long that paperwork would take, I found myself back at Square One. I imagined my sisters putting the finishing touches on their gifts: the framed photos, the his-and-her golf outfits, the trip back to their honeymoon destination. I cursed my life and considered presenting my parents with a detailed list of all the nights, and all the ways, my sisters had sneaked out of our house between 1995 and 2003.
When I realized I didn’t have enough pens with ink to complete that task, I found myself still stuck at Square One. By then, there were less than 24 hours standing between me and the anniversary. So I called the resort where my parents were staying. With a perky confidence, I told the lady who answered the phone that I would please like to arrange for a delivery to my parents’ hotel room for the following morning.
With equal perk and confidence, she transferred me to the concierge. By the 18th ring, I was confused and maybe a little hypnotized. Finally, Jen answered.
Maddeningly, and not a little disingenuously, Jen was not the concierge. Jen worked the front desk. Jen took my name and number and assured me that the concierge would call me back.
Hubert (seriously) called me back. I asked Hubert to please send a large pot of coffee (milk and sugar on the side) and a fruit plate (don’t skimp on the berries, Hubert) to my parent’s room. Hubert responded by transferring me to room service.
Tamara at room service answered after a prompt 57-minute (second?) hold. She immediately voiced displeasure with our terrible connection. I Cirque-du-Soleil’ed myself around our house, but nary a syllable successfully traveled from my lips to her ears. Finally, I just shouted “I’LL CALL BACK FROM MY LAND LINE.” Then I hung up and smashed my landline phone to bits.
I resolved that the coffee and fruit will have to be shelved until the 40th anniversary. As for this 35th one, I’ve cooked up a scheme so brilliant, I’m worried Edward Snowden is going to leak the details: I’m going to wait until my parents return from their trip, dragging my sisters’ presents with them. Only after I know what those three birds presented them will I buy my gift.
That way, I’ll know if I really need to spring for that cupcake tower.