Monday, November 28, 2011

THE CURSE OF THE BIRD GIFTS



I can’t believe it’s less than a month until Christmas. It seems as if just last week I was sweating in front of the air-conditioner. But then, with my hot flashes, I probably was.

I haven’t started my Christmas shopping yet, mainly because I have no idea what to buy for anyone. You figure, most of my friends and relatives are my age or older, so there’s not much they don’t already have. That means I’ll have to search for gifts that are really unique.

I have to admit my mother, bless her soul, was the queen of unique when it came to buying gifts. She would spend weeks searching for things she was certain no one possibly could already own.

And I’m pretty sure there was a good reason why they didn’t.

Take, for example, the duck remote-control holder she bought for my husband one year. It was a fuzzy stuffed duck, mostly green in color, and had a pocket flap attached to each side of it, into which you could insert a TV Guide on one side, and a remote, canned beverage, and probably a side of beef on the other. The duck was filled with something that weighed it down, like the beans in beanbags, and was supposed to sit on the arm of a chair or sofa, with the flaps hanging down over each side.

When my husband opened the gift, I could tell by his strained expression that it wasn’t exactly love at first sight. Not wanting to hurt my mom’s feelings, however, he smiled and plunked the duck down on the arm of his recliner, then shoved two remote controls into the flaps. I had to admit the duck wasn’t exactly attractive as far as ducks went. Its misshapen head and beak made it look as if it had been involved in some terrible, disfiguring accident.

“Why a duck anyway?” my husband asked one night after he’d reclined in his recliner and accidentally hit the duck with his arm and knocked it onto the floor for the umpteenth time. He glared at it. “What does a duck have to do with holding a remote control? A kangaroo would have made more sense!”

“I don’t know,” I said, “but you just make sure to keep that duck on the arm of your recliner! When my mom drops by, she’ll be looking to see it there!”

The next morning I got up to find a scene of sheer carnage in the living room. On the rug lay the duck, decapitated, with its innards strewn from one end of the living room to the other. My first thought was that my husband had committed duck-icide.

I rushed back into the bedroom to confront him. “What did you do to the duck? And how are we going to explain it to Mom?”

Half asleep, he opened one eye. “What on earth are you talking about?”

“The duck! It’s lying on the rug in 20 pieces! And I don’t even know where the head is!”

He sat up and smiled. “Really? The duck’s been mutilated? You wouldn’t kid me about something like that, would you?”

As if on cue, one of our dogs came trotting into the room...with the duck’s head in her teeth. I thought my husband was going to kiss her.

“You didn’t smear that duck with Alpo before you went to bed, did you?” I narrowed my eyes at him.

He laughed. “No, the dog is just smart, that’s all.”

My mother must have had a fondness for birds, because the next Christmas she bought me a stuffed parrot that had some kind of recording device inside that enabled it to repeat everything it heard.

Back when I was in grade school, there was an annoying kid named Gary who got a kick out of repeating everything I said, mocking me. Unfortunately, the parrot reminded me of Gary.

“Hello!” I said to the parrot.

“Hello!” its squawky voice came back at me. When it spoke, its beak opened and closed and its mechanical wings flapped.

“My name is Sally!” I said.

“My name is Sally!” it said.

The minute our dog back then, Sabre, heard the strange, nasally voice, she started barking at it.

“Aarrff! Aarrff! Grrrrr!”

The parrot immediately responded with, “Aarrff! Aarrff! Grrrrr!”

Sabre obviously didn’t appreciate being mocked. She shot her most threatening Cujo-style growls at the parrot. It shot the same growls right back. I figured that in dog talk, Sabre probably had been telling the parrot, “Shut up or die, bird brain!” So when the parrot repeated it, he was telling her the same thing.

The next thing we knew, the parrot had joined my husband’s duck in the decapitation club. Fake tail-feathers went flying everywhere.

So I think when I search for unique gifts to give this holiday season, I’ll probably be wise to stay away from anything bird related.

That is, unless I’m looking for gifts to entertain my dogs.

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