It's not the gift that counts...thankfully

It’s that time of year when packages arrive in brown paper packages tied up with string. The holiday season is upon us and we all get to show the people in our lives that we love them and we matter.

I have had times in life when we lived on a shoestring. In my home, Christmas has often been more about getting what you need, but can’t afford. So, I still come at gift giving from a practical viewpoint. I don’t like wasting money. I always ask friends and family what they want and try to give it to them if I can. I’d rather there be no surprises than to give someone something they can’t use and include the gift receipt. That’s one philosophy of gift giving.

"It is not the gift, but the thought that counts." - Harry Van Dyke

My husband, on the other hand, likes to do the big surprise. He rarely asks what you want or need. He likes to go on his own, do it at the last minute, wrap it badly (if at all) and watch your face carefully as you open the gift. Folks, it’s a lot of pressure. 


There are people who open their gifts and believably gush over anything as if it is the hope diamond. Others wear their heart on their sleeve and any and all attempts at gushing won't cut it.  I am of the second sort. No matter how I try, I just do not carry it off – even when I love the gift. I’m just not a gusher. I’ve tried to watch and learn but you are either that kind of person or you aren’t.


A few Christmases ago, the get want you need/want versus go for the big surprise philosophies collided under our Christmas tree. Given that I would like to get what I need, I gave my husband a list and I checked it twice. Christmas Eve came and he pulled out a big box. I opened it expecting to see the white cotton bathrobe that I asked for and saw material that looked like a wall hanging in a southwestern themed store. Hmmm… interesting color choice to go with my favorite white nightgown.  I pulled it open and there was a poncho with a neck that was about 7 inches tall - it was from Mexicali Blues. I’m from the Midwest and we are trained to be pathologically polite at all costs. Once I had figured out what it was, I tried to gush. He said “You hate it” and then explained, “I know that you are hot all the time so I thought that this would be good for you to take on and off.” He handed me the next one. This had more promise; a jewelry-sized box – maybe pearls I thought? I opened the box and there lay wild looking earrings that dangled about 2 ½ inches – again from Mexicali Blues. I tried again to gush and he responded: “you hate them too don’t you?”  If I had ever been a Mexicali Blues kind of girl, that ship had sailed long ago.

I opened the last package and it was a Lindt chocolate bar. Now we are talking, I love chocolate. What could go wrong? Well, it was 90% cacao which basically means it has no sugar in it. I’m not sure what one is supposed to do with chocolate with no sugar but I thanked him not wanting him to know that he bought me a chocolate bar with no sugar in it. This is his idea of Christmas – go to Freeport at the last minute and run around the shops.


About six months later, my husband wanted something sweet while watching a movie.  He came back with the Lindt chocolate. “I’ll eat this if you aren’t going to,” he said. He took a huge bite and suddenly his face fell as he chewed slowly. He walked out and came back and said: “I even blew the chocolate bar.” I told him that I didn’t have the heart to tell him on Christmas Eve.

"I’m not sure what one is supposed to do with chocolate with no sugar..."

It's gotten a little better since then. I make my list and check it twice. Sometimes things on the list show up and sometimes they don’t. In my house, it needs to be the thought that counts because surprises from Mexicali Blues just might show up again.


Have a wonderful holiday!


By Theressa Harrigan