Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Art of Gift Giving... And Receiving

Ever notice how we tend to give people things that we like as gifts? We think something is great, and we’re just sure that the recipient of our gift will be equally excited about it? I know I’ve been guilty of this. And so has my husband. He loves containers with lids. It was one of the first things I realized about him after we were married. One year for Christmas, I got a set of Rubbermaid containers for the kitchen. I made sure that never happened again. Every year, while we’re out shopping for the kids, I pick up a set of them for him.

“Pretend you didn’t see those!” I tell him. “They’re your Christmas present.” And every year he loves them. We have so many plastic containers floating around inside our kitchen cabinets. It’s really hard to keep them organized. Lids everywhere. Every so often I take a bunch and put them in the basement or donate them to Deseret Industries.

A few months ago Kent gave me a watch for my birthday. He loves watches. He buys himself watches all the time. Well, not all the time. I should be fair, so let’s say “fairly often.” I’m not sure how many he has. Probably not as many as it seems like to me. But he does have quite a collection.

“Do you want your present now or tonight?” he asked me on the morning of my birthday. I could tell he was excited. I was a little nervous. My daughter says I’m a terrible gift-getter.

“You never like what Dad gives you,” she accuses me every Christmas. “You always end up returning it.”

Really, that’s only happened once or twice.

 Three times at the most.

“How about now?” I said. He disappeared upstairs, and then returned with a beautifully wrapped gift.

“Happy birthday,” he told me and handed it to me. I took the gift nervously, avoiding his eyes as I thanked him. Looks a little too big for jewelry, I thought with relief. Sometimes he buys me jewelry. Not because he likes jewelry. I think it’s because jewelry is easy. I know I’m not an easy person to buy for. Okay, I admit it: I am a terrible gift-getter. As you are about to see. There’s not a lot I want. I’d rather he saved the money. And I really don’t wear jewelry. I wear earrings, but that’s it. I haven’t even worn my wedding ring in over sixteen years. And I only wore it sporadically before that. I think I have a little bit of claustrophobia or some related phobia; if my fingers swell up the least bit and I can’t slide the ring off easily, I get panicky. I like to tell people I don’t wear my wedding ring because it makes me feel trapped. Kent doesn’t appreciate this. I think it’s funny.

I slowly pulled the paper off, revealing a beautiful, shiny black lacquered box. With a lid.

I gasped, and then

“A box with a lid!”

“Open it,” he insisted after rolling his eyes. He’s a good sport about his obsession.

I opened the lid and I’m sure my face fell. It was a watch. I knew he sensed my disappointment.

“A watch,” I said lamely.

“Yeah, I remembered hearing you talk recently about wearing a watch,” he said, trying to sound enthusiastic after my poor reaction.

Yes, I thought. I think what I had said was something like “Nobody wears watches anymore. They’re becoming obsolete because everyone just looks at their cell phones.” I didn’t say this aloud.

“It’s beautiful,” I exclaimed, and it really was, but I knew I was too late.

“It’s a really nice watch,” he told me. “And I got a good deal on it,” he assured me, knowing I worry about cost.

I felt terrible about my reaction for the rest of the day.

I have very small wrists so I had to get the watch sized. I took it to Precision Time in the mall. I secretly hoped they wouldn’t be able to take out enough links to make it small enough for me. (That had happened once years ago, before I decided that wearing a watch made me feel trapped, too.) Then we could return the watch and it wouldn’t be my fault, right?

“Oh, we can definitely make it small enough,” the girl assured me. “By the way, this is a very nice watch.”

Oh? I thought. It was beautiful. Just what I would pick out if I were ever inclined to wear a watch.

“You don’t think he spent a lot of money on it, do you?” I asked the girl as she worked with her tiny tools.

“He probably spent quite a bit,” she told me.

Suddenly, I had this strange feeling come over me. I wanted to wear the watch. I didn’t want to return it. I hoped it wouldn’t make me feel trapped.

I must be turning into a real girl, I thought. One who likes expensive presents.

So what kind of a person does this make me? I wondered guiltily.

I don’t think it was because I found out it was a really nice watch that I suddenly wanted it. I think I realized that I liked it because Kent did. He had picked it out and bought it for me. It was beautiful. He loves watches. I could share his enthusiasm for watches enough to love this one and wear it for him. And guess what? I’ve loved my watch. I wear it almost every day. I don’t have to dig my cell phone out of my purse every time I need to know what time it is. And I feel so grown up wearing it. It’s not too tight, but not loose enough to slip all the way around to the wrong side of my wrist. And besides, it has a really quick release mechanism if I start to feel, well, you know.

I’m actually looking forward to Mothers’ Day.

No pressure, Kent.


  1. I learn more about you and your family every time I read another one of your essays, and I love it! I can just hear you talking as I read your words and it is just so fun to read what you have to share.

  2. That was very sweet! Love it! And I ditto what Mary said as well!

  3. Marion has an obsession with watches, too...and pens. I'm glad you are wearing the watch. I bet it looks smashing on you!!!

  4. Sister Gassman, you are the best blogger. I just love reading your posts! I can always picture you telling me the story when I read the post. I also love reading the funny stories about you and Bishop Gassman. You guys are so cute :)

  5. I wish I had read this before last night and then I could have checked out the watch when I saw you. Can't wait to see you again--I really want to see this watch. I like watches too, but I'm too cheap to buy very many, let alone an expensive one.

  6. I love watches. I have way too many. My kids however don't get it. They just look at their cell phone!