The nice thing about getting older is that you sometimes get a win that you didn’t expect, or gave up on long ago. The bad thing, of course, is that it’s often too late to matter.
Consider Christmas, for instance.
I remember as a young little guy getting Christmas presents from my family. Most of these were great — just what a precocious six- or nne- or fourteen-year-old kid would want. Toys, books, games and the like. But there were always a couple of “need” gifts — important things, but not so interesting to a kid on Christmas morning. Things like underwear, or dress pants, or most distressing of all: socks.
“Ripping through a big pile of reindeer-festooned wrapping paper to find a six-pack of knee-high sweatsocks rips a tiny piece of childhood out of a kid’s heart, bakes it in a fruitcake and dribbles it down the front of Nana’s slobbery holiday frock for dessert.”
Socks for Christmas is the most quintessential non-exciting gift. It’s the Father’s Day necktie of a child’s December. We need socks. We know we need socks. We go through socks like Santa goes through supportive plus-size trusses. We just don’t want socks as a present. Ripping through a big pile of reindeer-festooned wrapping paper to find a six-pack of knee-high sweatsocks rips a tiny piece of childhood out of a kid’s heart, bakes it in a fruitcake and dribbles it down the front of Nana’s slobbery holiday frock for dessert.
Okay, so it’s not that bad. Still. Socks for Christmas? No fun.
Fast-forward a couple of *cough* dozen *cough cough* years, and the family Christmas presents are different now. We trade food mixes and artisan olive oils, interesting books and small appliances of various indeterminate functions. Sometimes, we even buy each other logo sweatshirts or team hats.
But no socks. No. Socks.
Only, we don’t have a rule or anything. We’ve never even talked about it. It’s just sort of happened for the past twenty years or so that no socks have been exchanged at Christmas. Not with my family. Not with my wife. And not with the in-laws. But what with the law of averages, the finite number of appropriate gifts and no formal rule on the books, it’s only a matter of time. Eventually, people are going to run out of other ideas. This Christmas, I opened every present with trembling fingers, expecting to find the mother of all calf-covering horrors inside.
It didn’t happen. But a few people did apparently run a bit short on ideas this year, as I received several Amazon gift cards. Some people don’t like getting gift cards. Those people probably give socks for Christmas. And birthdays. And graduations. Bah.
Personally, I think gift cards are great. You get to open a little present, and then you get to buy whatever it is your little heart desires. So as soon as I got back home from the holidays, I logged into Amazon for a little post-Christmas Christmas.
At first, things went well. I found a couple of books, and a trinket from my wishlist. And then… then I ran out of steam. My wife found me, sitting catatonic, staring at my monitor. I filled her in on my dilemma, and she tried to help.
“Well, you could buy more books.”
Yeah. But I’ve got a few I haven’t read already, plus the couple in the cart. I’d better not.
“What about music?”
I could… but I’ve got this other site I get music from. And I pay up front, so if I want to buy anything, I should really get it from there instead.
I get those from Steam. And they take PayPal, so I can buy them without you seeing how much I spend on them.
Nothing, dear. Any other ideas?
“Hmm. Well… you always need socks.”
She was right, of course. But this was Christmas. I don’t want anyone to give me socks for Christmas — and I damned sure don’t want to buy socks for myself. I might as well give myself a wedgie and jump headfirst into the nearest trash can.
I sat for another hour, desperately browsing. I had the world at my fingertips, and free money to burn — but I’d run out of things to want. So I did the unthinkable. I bought myself socks. For Christmas.
And then I bought some underpants. And a belt. I was an ugly necktie away from a full set of gifting nightmares. And I did it to myself. Somewhere inside, ten-year-old me just mooned the remains of my childhood. And then peed on them.
Ah, well. At least my feet will be warm. And I’ve got three hundred and sixty shopping days to figure out what the hell I want next year, in case it happens again. The clock is ticking, pissed-off little kid me. Get cracking.Permalink | No Comments