I’m less than great when it comes to buying my sons gifts. As they get older, it’s just silly to try to buy them clothes or electronics, because I can’t get it right. I curse that I’ve raised them to be too polite, because they tell me they love everything, and then never wear it. They believe returning something will hurt my feelings. Instead, I keep buying them the same thing every year, because I am frozen in time while my boys are not. I see a red sweater and think, “oh, this is Christopher’s colour, and he doesn’t have one” when in fact he has 3 and just never wears them.
Last Christmas I handed them my credit card so they could order the headphones they wanted.
We actually don’t make a big deal of presents around here. When they were small, I didn’t have a choice. The most extravagant part of any gift was the thought behind it. I was big on strategy, and small on funds.
Things eventually eased up some, but we discovered we’d been living something that worked well for all of us. After the divorce, my first job was at a carpet cleaning company. As we fell into the rhythm of harried mornings and after school care, I struggled to keep life close to normal for the boys while spending my days telling people how to get cat puke out of a rug.
Friday nights were a big deal; we made pizza and rented a 99 cent movie from the variety store down the road. The boys got to alternate choosing. For nearly a year, Ari, then 6, chose the same movie. Every single time. Joe’s Apartment. I know. You’ve never heard of it. It’s about a (real) guy who lives in a (real) apartment with (animated) cockroaches. There is a song midway through, complete with cockroaches surfing in the toilet called Sewer Surfing. Forget the heart tugging anthems in The Lion King; you haven’t lived until you’ve heard a roomful of little kids singing about the urban circle of life.
It was true I was leasing this movie a dollar at a time, but this was before you could simply go and purchase any movie you wanted. It never ran on TV (go figure), so I went along with his choice for the simple reason that every child needs to have one. It was always on the shelf, something Ari found remarkable, I less so.
Ari turned 18 last week, and I blanked on the usual question of what to get him. I asked what he wanted, and he shrugged. I suggested we go shopping for clothes, and he got a pained look on his face as if I’d pinched him. Hard. I’d forgotten I was no longer part of this equation; it’s a boy vs girl thing I sometimes trip over after having only had sisters. He usually has an end of summer birthday party, and he asked if that could just be his present.
While setting up for the party, his best friend Sarah dropped in that afternoon to help.
“Watcha getting Ari?” she asked. I groaned a little.
“You know Ari,” I said. “I have no clue. When he was little, he was so easy. Pokemon cards or a Nerf gun, and everything was perfect.” Nerf guns are pretty great at any age, come to think of it.
“You’ll think of something,” she replied. “You always do….why are you smiling?”
I turned my computer monitor towards her. Amazon Canada. Joe’s Apartment. New DVD. $5.
I would have paid ten times that. It’s on its way.