Gift Giving and Gift Getting: “I’m not hard to buy a gift for, really I’m not.”

FullSizeRender [636456] Kitchen Tyler


I spotted a bright blue bag semi-hidden on a chair in our dining room earlier this morning.  Frothy bits of tissue paper erupted from its’ top. It must be another Hanukkah gift! How fun, I thought, my husband, JP, is going to surprise me tonight – on the 8th and last night of the holiday with an unexpected extra gift.

Hanukkah is a minor holiday on the Jewish calendar. We light candles, say the blessings, sing songs and celebrate with friends and family. As adults, we exchange small gifts only on the first night.

So what could this extra surprise gift be? I told myself I should wait until he gets home from work. But curiosity often (always?) gets the best of me and I walked over to the bright blue bag. I’m not proud to admit this, but I rumbled through the tissue paper to get a peek.

And what did I find inside the bag?

A kit of prescription preparation supplies for JP’s colonoscopy scheduled for later this week.

Another gift search foiled, serves me right.

I could go all treacly here and say how wonderful it is that my husband remembers (after numerous post-it note prodding by yours truly) to have regular health check-ups and that the real gift will be his news that the colonoscopy went well. All clear, I hope the doctor tells him later this week, no more unpleasant details needed, please.

But instead the dashed expectations of the bright blue bag made me think of my own less than satisfactory history as a gift recipient. Which puzzles me because, all modesty aside, I am both easy to buy for and a truly great gift giver.

Known among family and friends as a “good picker”, I have an eye for that special gift. Like the customized cross-word puzzle I gave my Dad with personalized clues based on his own life history. The perfect vintage poodle print for my friend Liz. The hand-created framed collage I made for JP, then my boyfriend, featuring creative images from the early days of our courtship.

That was also the year that my future-husband-to-be reciprocated by giving me a set of metal nail clippers in a red leatherette case. A few seasons later his Hanukkah gift was a heavy flannel nightgown sporting delicate white eyelet ruffles at its’ high neck. There was also the time he gave me huge, hideously dangling, bright orange fan-shaped earrings.

And when I turned sixty, my closest friends hosted a small dinner for me after which I eagerly opened their gifts. Skin cream. Hand cream. A gift certificate for a facial. More moisturizer. Another hand cream.

So this is how I am perceived: As someone who needs help cutting her nails, likes to dress in the image of an American pioneer woman while sleeping, enjoys wearing large flashy earrings and has very, very, very, very dry skin.

All untrue! Shouldn’t my husband and friends know me better?

You can attribute nice motives to each gift giver, of course.  The nail clipper set proved useful. The nightgown was intended to keep me warm. The earrings were handmade, purchased at a favorite crafts fair.  And while my skin is well-kept, thank you, I do have a known weakness for creams and lotions that smell of lavender. So points there.

Perhaps the real point of the bright blue bag colonoscopy supplies episode is that reality intrudes even during the happiest of gift-giving seasons.

This year it was our two-year old grandson who received from us – in my humble opinion – the most thoughtful Hanukkah gift of all. A relatively inexpensive toy kitchen which we quickly discovered was reasonably priced because it had been falsely labeled as “easy to assemble”. The 75 lb. box was delivered to our door by a brawny UPS guy last week.

Inside the box we found a 16 page booklet of visual-only instructions, 42 separately numbered particle-board and plastic pieces and 104 (I counted) small screws and bolts encased in individual plastic bags.

With my minor assistance, JP completed the kitchen in four plus hours which included much cursing and “whose idea was this” grumbles. But so worth it when our grandson’s eyes lit up when he saw his very own faux stainless steel refrigerator, oven, stove and dishwasher ensemble – including a non-working kitchen faucet and painted-on subway-tile backsplash.

This week while our grandson is busy stirring painted wood food inside tiny pots and pans on his new-four-burner stove, my husband will be busy shall we say, modifying his diet (again, no unpleasant details needed) in “anticipation” of his upcoming colonoscopy.

Celebrations, holidays, spending time with family always coincide with reality. Getting gifts we may not like. Giving gifts we hope our recipients love. And waiting on the news of the one gift always high on our getting older wish list, one you cannot assemble, construct or purchase –  good health.







Filed under 1st Grandchild, Aging, Baby Boomers, Family, Female Friends, friendship, Holidays, Husbands, Jewish, Marriage, Men vs Women, Midlife, Women

10 responses to “Gift Giving and Gift Getting: “I’m not hard to buy a gift for, really I’m not.”

  1. Christine

    What a lovely essay. Made me laugh out loud and then tear up at the beautiful poignant ending. Perfect.


  2. I hear you. I finally won at the office party raffle a couple weeks ago – a gift card to AutoZone and my husband and I don’t own a car. What I really want is the lime- green Lamborghini I saw yesterday. Bet I get perfume.


  3. The good health report for another year is always the best gift! That aside I love small thoughtful gifts. A bookmark rather than a book, a pair of socks rather than expensive boots, new dish towels are one of my favs to get! I do not re-gift and don’t like to receive re-gifts.Just saying….


  4. Nola Huffman

    Good one, Nancy. And so true. My mom is getting a “superficial” melanoma removed next week and the best gift would be to hear, “we got it all.”



  5. ShepW

    I like to think that I’m also a person who’s easy to buy gifts for: I like cash, I like gift cards, and I like books on travel, fiction by favorite authors, etc. When I buy gifts for family members, I buy them gift cards so that I don’t have the problem of not knowing their favorite colors, styles, sizes, etc. They have that info and use it to buy the desired item in their favorite stores. I recall those toy kitchens from my youth when both my sister and a cousin had them when they were kids. Lastly, please do not refer to Hanukkah as a minor holiday: it should be considered as holiday that celebrates freedom from tyranny, freedom to worship as the man upstairs intended (no other gods before Him), and a miracle of the oil lamp that was expected to last a single day but lasted 8 days. Have a great holiday season, Ms. Wolf!


    • Shep – I think of Chanukah as a minor holiday on the Jewish calendar as compared to Yom Kippur or Passover, for example, not minor in terms of its significant story.
      Thanks for your comment,


  6. Greg

    The image of you as the sleeping pioneer woman will probably keep me awake. Happy belated Hannukah and luck to Jim on procedure. Love,


  7. Oh no you got the assemble it yourself kitchen! UGH! I have had those mishaps and the idea of putting it all back in the back and shipping it back or driving it back to the store is just as bad as just putting it together. Looks good though! I’m impressed. And it is a great gift. Perfect for playdates, etc.


  8. helenalemon

    Ha! Reminds me of the time my son thoughtfully bought me a pair of nose-clippers!


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