Christmas, my refrigerator door has more macaroni art than a Sicilian pasta factory.
Right after New Year’s, I’ll date each child’s industriously crafted artwork and
store it in the attic, hoping mice don’t go for dead noodles. We grownups must
make the traditional fuss and enthusiastic acclaim, largely because we don’t want
to be riddled with guilt if our kids grow up neurotically starved for appreciation.
Still, pasta art favorably compares with what older kids give to their parents.
Perhaps this was the origin of the expression “faking it.”
of late Christmas shopping is nothing compared with the stress of manufacturing
fake pleasure when we open a present we really don’t need, want, or even like.
I doubt my mom liked anything I ever gave her, especially when I spent my allowance
on stuff from TV commercials. “Why thank you,” she’d politely say, “I really do
need a clay head that grows grass out of the skull in case I ever get tired of
watering the front lawn.” One Christmas produced this gem: “What a beautiful can
opener, and so much newer than the one I bought last week,” or, as I wrote in
my teen diary, she said, “What a pretty rhinestone bracelet … so much brighter
than real diamonds.” Served me right for buying her jewelry for Christmas just
because I wanted to borrow it for New Year’s Eve.
Her responses weren’t
quite as I’d hoped, but I didn’t figure out the meaning under the controlled sarcasm
until I was in the same position myself as a mom. My kids want to please me as
much as I wanted to please her, and this presents a dilemma best expressed in
the old saying, “ … Oh what a tangled web we weave/When first we practice to deceive
This year, my wary son asked what I wanted for Christmas, and I was
both cooperative and specific: I needed to replace a white terrycloth shortie
robe that had been worn smooth after 20 years of wearing and washing. I showed
him a sample of an identical, reasonably priced one on the Internet. What did
he do? He bought me a long one not short, Navy blue not white, and velour not
terrycloth. I hate velour because it fails to absorb drops of water, and know
full well that I will end up ordering the one I want, and paying for it myself.
It also means that, in addition to hypocritically saying I liked it when I didn’t,
I had to come up with a way of rejecting the gift without rejecting the giver.
So in the future, if he asks where it is, I can say, “It’s in the wash.” After
all, that’s what he says when I ask him, "Where's the sweater I gave you?"
am like the mother who gave her son two ties for Christmas. He went to the hall
mirror, put on one of them, and turned to show her how it looked, “What,” she
said disappointedly, “You didn’t like the other one?”
Moral of the story:
Both giving and receiving gifts are beautiful and loving gestures, especially
if love is simply spelled out in macaroni.
December 30, 2012 column
"A Balloon In Cactus" Columns
Topics: Texas Christmas
| Mothers | Columns