I started my Christmas shopping early this year so I wouldn’t find myself frantically rushing around at the last minute and buying things like a sequined halter-top for my 82-year-old aunt because it’s the only thing in her size left on the rack.
Unfortunately, even though I have set a personal record for early gift- buying this year, my Christmas shopping thus far has not been flawless…not by any means. It seems as if every year someone on my Christmas list asks for a gift that is either rare, discontinued, back-ordered or in such high demand, people are setting up tents and camping out in front of department stores, waiting for a shipment to arrive. Either that, or I order something that looks great in the catalog, but when it arrives, it doesn’t look anything like the photo.
Take, for example, the hand-tooled, monogrammed copper wastebasket I saw three weeks ago in a catalog that featured handcrafts from Cape Cod. The perfect gift, I thought, for our friend Gregory, who recently remodeled his office. So I ordered it, with the initial “G” on it. The wastebasket arrived two days ago in an old cardboard box that wasn’t even sealed. The flaps were folded in that over-and-under way that keeps them closed, but nothing was sealed.
The wastebasket looked as if the guy had downed a pitcher of martinis before he hand-tooled it. I held it up to show my husband. “What does this monogram look like to you?” I asked.
He studied it for a moment. “A crooked 6.”
The copper on the wastebasket also had been polished…in about 30 different directions. So many different swirls, lines, zigzags and spirals were covering it, it looked as if it had been attacked by an army of crazed Brillo pads.
“What’re all those dents along the bottom of it?” my husband asked.
I frowned. “They’re not dents. I think they are supposed to be some kind of decorative border.”
“Oh,” he said.
That did it. “I can’t give Gregory a gift that looks all scratched up and dented, and especially not with a crooked number six on it!” I whined.
“He’s only going to put trash in it,” my husband said, shrugging. “It’ll probably look crummy in no time flat anyway.”
“Then why don’t I just fill it with trash before I send to him and give him the complete effect right away!” I snapped.
When I asked my mother what she wanted for Christmas, she handed me an empty plastic bottle that previously had contained body lotion. She told me it had come in a “welcome to the hospital” kit she’d received when she’d been a patient. “I really love this lotion and the scent of it,” she said. “I’m sure if anyone can find some for me, you can.”
So I did an online computer search for the lotion. After 20 minutes of searching, I was thrilled to find a Web site where I could buy it. The only catch was that I had to order a case of 60 bottles and pay an extra $23 for shipping. Unless my mother wanted to fill the bathtub with the stuff and jump in, I figured she’d have to live to be 110 before she’d ever use that much lotion.
“Maybe if you just go to the hospital where your mother got the lotion and ask them to sell you a bottle or two of it, they will,” my husband said.
I wondered why I hadn’t thought of that.
The people at the hospital couldn’t have been nicer. They tore open a welcome kit and handed the lotion to me. A victorious smile spread across my face…until I noticed that the lotion was a different brand. I opened it and smelled it. The scent wasn’t even close to the one my mother loved. “It’s not the same,” I said, my disappointment obvious.
“That’s odd,” the hospital employee said. “That’s the lotion that comes in all of our kits. How long ago was your mother a patient here?”
“About seven years,” I said.
He gave me a look that made me feel as if I’d just asked him for something from Cleopatra’s original cosmetics collection.
So I guess if I want to make my mother happy this Christmas, I’m going to have to order a case of 60 bottles of lotion.
If you know of anyone who’d like to buy 58 bottles, just let me know.