Presents for your Parents
Are there any people more difficult to buy for than your parents? Go along with me here and disregard your loved one just for the sake of this article because you can usually get something for them, even if it's something they bought themselves already.
Parents, on the other hand, don't live with you, get their own fuddy-duddy frock wear, usually have no mortgages or debts and aren’t in need of anything to help with home renovations. Well, we might think they need some help regarding their décor, but they don’t. Whatever the differences in style and taste, it’s still hard to work out just what they might like or need.
In our paper the other day it was reported that foot spas, ice shavers and grills were among the least popular Christmas gifts and it caused me to blush a little. I had been seriously thinking about getting a foot spa for Mum, thinking that she might appreciate a bubbly soak after a long day on her feet in the Lifeline shop or out in the garden. Plus I'd bought them (as a joint present - *wince*) a health grill many years ago. It seems as though appliances of any sort are not what people want for Christmas.
As a 37 year old, any obvious shockers for gifts would of course be less forgivable than for a nine year old. Way back in 1977, my younger brother Thumb and I thought it would be a great idea to combine our pocket money and give Mum a flip-top rubbish bin as a Christmas present. To say that her response was a shade less than enthusiastic was somewhat exaggerating things a bit.
In 1978, I thought I had easily made up for that childish faux pas by taking an ancient bicycle out of the Mackenzie’s back shed and painting it with pink undercoat found in the Dutton's old garage. Mum didn’t have a bike and I figured that she’d no doubt love to ride along with us three kids in her free time. Hell, who wouldn't?
After I was made to return the bike and apologise to a puzzled Mr Mackenzie (who didn't even know that his dead father's rusty 1930s bone shaker had gone) I awaited the dreaded punishment that night. This usually entailed Dad having to come in just before us three kids hopped into the bath (either in turn or together, depending on age, size, mood and toilet needs). He'd give us a swift, sharp smack on the leg which was designed to sting and show up on the skin as a red reminder. It never really hurt that much, but when combined with his deliberately angry face each one of us would end up in the tepid brown Murray river bath water hiccupping and sobbing in sorrow.
This time, the dreaded visit from Dad never came. Looking back now I can understand that they knew that my intentions were good: it was just the execution of it that was bad. The following day I rode my own bike (a maroon Malvern star with sissy bar, fluoro-orange flag and a plastic basket on the front) to Tom's the Cheaper Grocer for a more practical gift. Jeepers Creepers but it pretty well blew my entire budget of $4 - a green and white set of plastic salt and pepper shakers and a mini rubbish bin (old ideas hung on hard) filled with Pez pellets. Mum’s reaction to has been wiped from the memory banks, but I don’t ever recall seeing the shakers on our dining table.
Twenty seven years later brings us to the present day, trudging dispiritedly around Tea Tree Plaza, tired, in need of a Farmers Union Feel Good Iced Coffee and a personal shopper. My budget may be slightly larger than 1978’s four dollars in twenty cent pieces but my brain is just as clueless.
Our dog chewed the legs off a rather cute wooden chicken that Mum had sitting on the edge of her plant stand – what if we found something similar to replace it with? Nothing we saw was as whimsical or cute, just ugly and tacky. I decided to go with my instincts and avoid getting her the Sozzled Supine Santa Statue who grunted out: "Roll me over darling, and I'll show you yer Christmas present."
She is allergic to perfumes, soaps and bath oils, has more jewellery than Zamels and would rather chew her own leg off than have someone else select any clothes for her to wear. Any books I’ve given her in the past have not been enjoyed and seeing as Catherine Cookson’s been dead for about a decade I do not want to buy one of her ‘latest’ books, written earlier this year. Maybe a set of three clay ducks instead.
Dad, Dad, Dad. Tools - the man already has three back sheds full of the stuff. Books - he's a member of a book club and has read everything before our local Angus and Robertson's put it on the shelves. Chocolates - he'd love them, but Mum would be likely to snatch them away and say "No, your father doesn't need those. Not the way he's looking at the moment." (She means well, but it's no surprise that he doesn't appreciate her intervention). The CSIRO diet? Oh yeah, really nice, really tactful way to embrace the spirit of Christmas.
Clothes? Naah, we always give him clothes. He may need a couple more XL Penguin shirts, but what sort of thrilling gift is that? DVDs? We gave him and Mum a DVD player last year (with some movies they like) and last week or so Mum inadvertently blurted out, “Oh, we haven’t used that DVD player since you showed us how to put on ‘The Wizard of Oz’ for Sapphire on Boxing Day last year.” Bugger. How wildly thoughtful and creative – a Mitre 10 gift voucher for Dad it is then.
When we got home, grumpy and tired, the clay ducks and voucher were left in the spare room. It was then that the horrible thought hit me: my gift shopping is NOT over. What on earth do I get Love Chunks for Christmas? Are there any people more difficult to buy for than your partner……