I take pride in my shopping efforts. In fact, I refer to myself as the Suburban Santa because over a 12-month period, I amass a closet full of presents for darn near everyone I know in Sugar Land and beyond. Seriously, my closet is bursting in gifts from antique jewelry to silk scarfs to vintage rare books. Yes, I admit that is at least one standard deviation from normal (probably two), but I have my reasons. First, I am pathetically poor at remembering birthdays, and so Christmas is my way of making up for this gift-giving blunder. It’s not that I don’t remember when, say, my brother’s birthday is because I do. Unfortunately, I remember a day too early, or 6:30 AM or 10:30 PM the actual day when it is way too late to send a gift or way too early to make a phone call. My brothers and longtime friends do, however, enjoy a rousing version of “Happy Birthday” the following day. Well, sometimes. That is, when I can remember.
Second, I grew up attending a church called the Church of the Epiphany. The Epiphany is a day that celebrates the three kings or magi (I almost never say wise men for fear of using an oxymoron) and their long journey to meet the Christ child and bring him precious gifts. I like to believe that the magic of the Magi has rubbed off on me because I feel everyone deserves a little something for Christmas. By everyone I mean Boy Scout and Girl Scout leaders, basketball coaches, neighbors (even ones I’ve never met), the guy who sold me my minivan, my pharmacist, all the mental health people I touch base with weekly, my phlebotomist, the garbage lady, the grass mowers, the parish priest, my hair dresser, my favorite barista, and the lawn crew. (I might be exaggerating just a wee bit.) People are often shocked that I give a gift to all my children’s teachers (e.g., band, computer, PE, art), the school staff members, and the office personnel. This year that came to 39 people.
I’m sure that in therapy I would find that this excessive gift-giving to school folks stems from my teaching days when I received more snowman mugs than I care to count and almost as many dollar-store statues of everything from puppies to iridescent hands holding, you guessed it, iridescent flowers. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not an ingrate. I truly did appreciate all the gifts my students gave me, especially since most were 9th graders who usually spent their own money on these treasures. Besides, I was just thrilled that these 13 year-olds would even think of someone besides that person they would see in the mirror every morning.
Another reason for my neurotic generosity is my children. The Turner kids are not the quiet students sitting in the back of the room dutifully taking notes and keeping track of all their assignments. Nope. My kids come from a long line of knee-jigglers, pencil-tappers, and mindless hummers. Annie, Katie and Will tend to be like their mama who is a bit scatter-brained and talkative. Believe me when I say I spent many a recess in Mrs. Kearny’s kindergarten punish chair because I couldn’t keep my thoughts to myself. Later detention would replace that punish chair. I’m currently working on this same issue with my kids, especially my daughter Katie. I’m always telling her, “It’s okay to have a thought you don’t express.” This has cut down on priceless statements such as, “Annie, your hair is, like, SO super greasy,” and “Mom, this chicken looks just gross.” My favorite example of the importance of holding one’s thoughts came from my oldest daughter. At her first middle school dance, some poor boy walked up to Annie and asked her to dance. Her most gracious response was, “Oh gross, NO!” (I signed her up for Junior League Cotillion classes the next day.)
I digress. *Sigh!*
What I’m trying to say is any teacher or staff member that spends more than 15 minutes a week with my children should be thanked properly.
My husband believes that I am just bat-%*&$ crazy with all my gifting. Just last week another Amazon box smiled at me from the doorstep. (No, really, the box smiled at me.) Unfortunately, Mike was home when it arrived, and he asked what I was doing with the same 10 small books. “Oh, they are presents for my prayer group.” I could read his mind. He was thinking, “You give presents to your prayer group?” But, Mike never asked that question. He’s given up trying to talk any sense into me, and we are years past guilt strategies. Now I only get the dropped-head-slow-shake response.
Before you sensible people start a petition to have me committed, I want you to know that even though I manage to play the Suburban Santa, I have honed my shopping and bargaining strategies so well, that I spend very little per person, AND each still receives a nice little present. So, I encourage you to check back in a few days to learn just how I do it.