Thursday, January 12, 2006

The gift of creativity

Every Christmas season, I come up with what I think are unusual gift ideas. And every Christmas season, I end up having to return a few gifts before I even give them.

This Christmas season was no different.

You’d think I’d have learned my lesson from past disasters. For example, there was the wood carving of a buffalo that I had specially made one Christmas for my husband, the buffalo collector. Unfortunately, the carver had never carved a buffalo before, so the end result looked like something that had been in a horrible, disfiguring accident.

Still, the artist was so proud of his masterpiece, I ended up forking over a wad of money for it…and then hid the buffalo in the back of the closet, where to this day, it still remains. I can only hope that a nest of hungry termites has attacked it.

And then there was the round tablecloth I had a woman crochet for my mother. The center of the darned thing wouldn’t lie flat, no matter what my mother and I did to it. We tried stacking books on it, ironing it and starching it, and still the center continued to rise as if it were part of Houdini’s magic act. We were tempted to bring it outside and beat it with a stick.

Another gift disaster occurred when a glass blower at a mall told me he could make a set of miniature bowling balls and pins for my mother. At the time, I thought it was a great idea because not only was my mother an avid bowler, she also collected blown glass. The final result looked like a clear-glass turkey drumstick surrounded by skinny baked potatoes. When the glass blower first handed it to me, I honestly thought it was a replica of someone’s lunch.

This year, however, I wasn’t quite as creative. Still, I had problems.

We have a dear friend who collects pocket watches, so I bought him a pocket watch that had wood trimming encircling the face. It came in a matching wooden case. I decided to have the back of the watch engraved with, “TO BILL, CHRISTMAS 2005.”

A week before Christmas, I picked up the watch. The back read, “TO BULL, CHRISTMAS 2005.”

Then I bought my mother a pair of dainty pearl earrings. When I went to wrap them, I noticed that they were lying in the bottom of the case instead of attached to the velvet backing, where I’d last seen them. I picked up the earrings and discovered that the little slip-on backs were missing. I finally located them, loose in the case, and slid them back onto the earring posts. They immediately fell off.

I rolled my eyes. The earring backs obviously were way too big. I shoved everything back into the case and decided to head back to the jewelry store. That’s when my search for the sales receipt began.

I searched everywhere for that darned receipt, even outside in the trash barrel. By then, I was so frustrated, I was flinging trash onto the ground and shouting, “Come on! You’ve GOT to be in there!”

I could only imagine what the neighbors were thinking. Probably, “There’s Sally on her diet again, looking for stray M&Ms.”

I never did find the sales receipt, but I decided to be brave and return to the jewelry store anyway.

The female clerk seemed overly pleasant until I told her I had a problem with some earrings I’d purchased. Her expression immediately changed to something that looked as if I’d just told her I was dating her husband.

I explained that the backs of the earrings were too big and kept falling off. She opened the box and removed the earrings…and only one earring back. The other one was nowhere to be found. The clerk even turned the box upside down and shook it over the counter.

“It was in the box when I left the house,” I said. “Honest, it was!”

Her suspicious look told me it was highly unlikely that she was buying any of my story. I guess I really couldn’t blame her. After all, there I was, a complete stranger with no sales slip and a missing earring-back…a 14K white-gold earring back. I may as well have been the long-lost daughter of Bonnie and Clyde.

The clerk stared at me a moment, her eyes boring into mine. I suspected that her years of working with fine jewelry had made her develop a sixth sense, a built-in lie detector. I didn’t dare blink.

Finally, she silently walked over to a drawer, pulled out a small box and brought it back to the counter. The box contained earring backs of all sizes and shapes. She pulled out two and slid them onto the posts of the pearl earrings. They fit perfectly.

“There you go,” she said, her lips forming a taut line.

I got out of there, stopped and breathed a sigh of relief. Things, I told myself, definitely were looking up.

That is, until I decided to order a musical clock with little moving dancers in it for our friends in New York.

But that’s a whole other story…

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