Gifts: The Invisible & The Insane

My husband and I usually don't exchange gifts during the holidays. Maybe because we're always broke. Maybe because we're always ungrateful. This year I got him the brand new phone he wanted. He has already reminded me several times that after the rebate, it cost me a total of a dollar. He forgets to bring up that I had to renew my contract with the devil for another two years so that he might have his new phone. For my gift, my husband bought me a mezuzah, a Torah scroll put on the doorways to bless new Jewish homes. Forget the fact that we've lived here for seven years. I asked him how this was a gift for me when he too lives in the house. He replied, in the spirit of all religions: "Yeah, but you care more about that shit than I do."

So typically we skip buying each other presents and look for the love elsewhere. It usually comes from our sisters. Their gifts fit into two categories: "The Invisible" and "The Insane".

Every year my sister-in-law starts planning her charade before Thanksgiving. She asks me to send her our shirt sizes, pants sizes, shoe sizes. I play along. I even throw in my "car size" just to see if she's paying attention. A few weeks into this, she starts sharing her hallucinations with me. And she hallucinates in detail: "I saw the nicest sweater for you yesterday at Bloomingdales at the mall on Highway 67 but I was in a rush. I'm going back today to get it." This is typically followed in the coming weeks by explicit details on her finding boxes to wrap the presents in, heading to the post office in traffic on a Tuesday afternoon when there was a roadblock in the left lane due to road repairs, culminating in how we should have the gifts by Friday. Of course my husband and I have been down this road before so neither of us takes off from work to be sure someone's home to receive the delivery. Friday, Saturday, Monday, Tuesday... They all come and go and nothing arrives and nobody mentions anything. Then a couple of weeks will go by and my sister-in-law will say out of the blue: "Oh, I didn't get a chance to go back to the mall to get that sweater, but I saw something else I think you'll like even better." I'm too apathetic to even bother to say: "What the fk are you talking about? You told me you bought everything, packed it up and shipped it two weeks ago?!" The thing is: She's not nuts or even mean-spirited. I think when she says she's going to send us stuff, she fully intends to but just can't get her act together. But I mention "nuts" as a way to segue to my sister.

You know how they say: "One man's trash is another man's treasure"? No, I'm pretty sure both men would agree the stuff she sends us is trash. She either sends us stuff from yard sales- nothing wrong with that in itself- or stuff that she's picked out of people's garbage piles in front of their house before the truck pulled up in the wee hours to cart it away to its final resting place. She'll send it along with a note: "I can't believe somebody would throw this out!" And as I turn over the item, my respect and admiration grow for the previous owner for having used such good judgment. My sister's so proud of her find and I can't stop wondering if some kid vomited on it in 1986 or a wild animal gnawed at it while hunting for a midnight snack in the trash pile. I've also come to the conclusion by seeing my sister's gifts over the years that she has no idea how old I am. We may have grown up in the same house with the same parents and no other siblings but she continues to send me things like Nancy Drew books. "I thought you loved Nancy Drew." "I do, but I already have all the books and read the whole series... in 1974."

My sister rescues items from garbage heaps in front of people's houses, packs them up, goes to UPS, pays $16 postage, and ships them to me, so I can throw them out in front of my house. One day I saw the brown truck coming down my block. "It's okay" I yelled over to him. "You can just toss it out the door at the end of the driveway there... right next to that big green receptacle."

So while it's upsetting that my sister-in-law's gifts don't arrive. It's even more upsetting that my sister's gifts do.