≡ Menu

Regiftable Gifts

One of the posts the other day reminded me of a story from about 7 years ago that I just have to send in for your disapproval.

At the time, I was about 15 years old, and my Aunt was celebrating her 30th birthday. My Mum is my Aunt’s older sister and was 43 at the time. Yes, there is a 13-year age gap between the two. My Aunt had planned to hire out a ‘clubhouse’ or ‘function centre’ for the party, had a professional caterer, open bar, professional cake, the whole she-bang. I know it sounds a bit odd, but a few years before my Aunt had come out of a bad relationship, had found a new love, and was starting to live her life again. This party was really really important to her.

Right as we were due to leave, Mum looks at me, and says, “What did you get your Aunt?”  Well, I had no job, no income, Mum didn’t give us pocket money, so I had no way of getting a present (I found out two years later when I tried to graduate that she had not paid ANY of my 6 years of High School fees because “I should get a job and do it myself”, and I couldn’t graduate, but that’s a different story). Apparently, Mum thought she could leave it to the last minute, not buy a gift, and just put her name on my gift, because I always put in the time and effort to buy a cute and appropriate gift (now that I have a job, anyway). I managed to rustle up some candles I’d bought for my Grandma some time before (but had never given to her), and a few bath bombs, and wrapped it all up nicely, but point blank refused to put Mum on the card (and yes, I understand that may have been a faux pas in and of itself).

Well. Mum storms into her room, searching for something to give my Aunt, and comes back with a shaving kit. You know the ones, before waxing became all the rage, and they had a can of shaving cream, a razor, moisturizer, etc, in a pink box with a big pink bow. Well, this box, originally had cost about $10 at most and had been a gift to my Mum from a neighbor – THREE years before! Yes, complete with inch-thick layer of dust, Mum starts wrapping it up. Well, I love my Aunt to bits, and there was NO way I was going to stand for it. I took it off Mum, said something about her getting ready/dressed/whatever, and how I’m a much better wrapper than she is. She storms off, I undo the paper, wipe down the box, open it up to make sure everything is still in place, re-do the bow and wrap it carefully. Mum puts her name, my brother, her boyfriend at the time, and his 4 sons all on the one $10 gift that didn’t actually cost her anything. *Sigh*

Fast forward to the end of that party. I helped my Aunt with the cleaning (which pretty much meant eating all the leftover food, what can I say, I was a typical 15-year-old) and then helped her stack the presents into her car. I gave her my present, and the ‘present’ from my Mum that I had been carting around all night, and my Aunt opened my present right then and there – and positively gushed over a few cheap candles and bath bombs – she made me feel like… well, like I’d given her the most perfect and expensive gift in the world. I was on cloud 9. And then she opens the gift from Mum and looks at me and says, “Is this… the box… that’s been sitting on the cistern of your Mum’s toilet for three years? Oh. My. God.” Yes, dear Mum forgot that just one week before, my Aunt had used the shower in her bathroom after the hot water in her apartment had stopped working, and had to have seen the distinctive pink shaving box sitting in pride of place on top of the toilet.

Well, my Aunt swore me to secrecy, and deposited the ‘gift’ into the nearest rubbish bag. And no, my Mum hasn’t gained any more common decency since.

Miss Jeanne, thanks to your blog, I now know better than to do this. Throw me into ehell if you must for my ignorance and my actions, but please, tell me how I could have handled this better. It’s haunted me for years. 0427-10


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Caros April 28, 2010, 6:34 am

    I think you did everything you could and bless your Aunt for being so sweet.

    Think your mother more than deserves a stint in ehell for each of the elements you’ve listed above. I also think she’s perfectly awful for letting you work so hard through 6 years of school without letting you know she wasn’t/wouldn’t pay for the school fees. However mean that is to start off with, if you’d known you’d have at least been able to do something about it, however difficult it may have been.

  • nkkingston April 28, 2010, 6:47 am

    Hadn’t paid any fees for six years? I only went to a fee-paying school briefly, and they’d have kicked you out after one term of non-payment. That was a very patient High School.

  • HonorH April 28, 2010, 6:57 am

    The writer sounds like she did a lot better than she should’ve with a mother like that!

  • Mechtilde April 28, 2010, 7:25 am

    I’m rather at a loss to see what the poster thinks she did wrong?

  • NotCinderell April 28, 2010, 7:42 am

    Am I missing something? Where is the OP’s faux pas? I don’t notice any.

  • Margaret April 28, 2010, 8:12 am

    15 year old you handled it perfectly. What else could you have done? Your Aunt probably already knew what your mom was like before this incident. It sounds like your Aunt would have been able to muster up a thank you in front of you if she had wished to pretend it was a good gift, but instead, she shared a roll-your-eyes kind of moment with you, evidenced by her swearing you to secrecy on the final destination of the gift. It sounds like it was a kind of bonding moment between you.

  • Ruth April 28, 2010, 8:49 am

    Points to your aunt for appreciating your present. And also for not causing a scene with your mum or doing anything but quietly disposing of the other gift. You were 15 and I think you handled it all pretty well for a 15-year-old.

  • Petticoats April 28, 2010, 9:01 am

    I think you did well by your aunt. Your mother should have been ashamed.

  • livvy April 28, 2010, 9:10 am

    I think you did great – other than apologizing on her behalf, which you did, there’s really nothing else you could have done to mitigate your mother’s rudeness. Especially as a peniless 15 year old.

  • Lizajane April 28, 2010, 9:13 am

    I don’t see anything you did wrong.

  • Oxymoroness April 28, 2010, 9:30 am

    While your Mom has certainly earned her place in E-hell you’re fine. Your gift was precious, not because of the price tag, but because of the time and effort put in to it.

  • Cady April 28, 2010, 9:37 am

    I think you handled it just fine. Sure, you had to throw together a last-minute gift, but sometimes that does happen, and you made sure not to select something that had been in plain sight for three years. Your mom is the person who should’ve known better. That, as an adult, she expected her teenage daughter to buy her aunt a gift that she (mom) could present as her own is absurd. The fact that she didn’t pay your high school fees is shocking. Parents should provide necessities for their children, and paying school fees is a necessity. If the fees were for extracurricular activities and she truly thought you should pay them yourself, then she should have let you know that immediately in your first year of high school so you could either not sign up for extracurriculars or get a job to pay for them. To let the fees accumulate over six years and loom as an obstacle to your graduation was both cruel and irresponsible. It is not now, nor has it ever been your job to teach your mother good manners. That was her job to do for you. It appears she’s done so by providing an example of how not to act.

    And while I’m sure your aunt was disappointed, I wouldn’t lose too much sleep over the incident. She’d known your mother 30 years at that point, and probably knew what to expect. I’m sure she’s delighted that you turned out so thoughtful despite her sister’s best efforts.

  • LiLi April 28, 2010, 9:41 am

    LW’s Aunt made a bit of a faux pas by hosting her own b-day party, but I fail to see why LW is being haunted by anything that happened. It seems LW was a student of limited means who managed to put together a nice gift for her Aunt with little warning. Good for her for standing up to her mother, she was under no obligation to let mom take credit. Her mother is a pill.

  • Tammy Buchli April 28, 2010, 10:01 am

    I don’t see how you could possibly have handled it better, frankly. I think you handled the whole thing brilliantly. Your mother sounds as if she needs a trip to eHell (at least), but you are golden.

    Regifting is OK, so long as 1) the recipient doesn’t realize that it’s a regift; and 2) it’s a nice appropriate gift that the recipient will enjoy. So you can see you were fine on both counts.

    Especially given the fact that no reasonable person would expect an unemployed teenager to prodce any kind of a gift at all.

  • phoenix April 28, 2010, 12:01 pm

    The only thing I can see doing better is spending more time with that Aunt! She’s sounds like a real treasure.

  • AS April 28, 2010, 12:47 pm

    In my opinion, refusing to let your mum write on the gift you gave your aunt was NOT a faux pas like you mentioned within parenthesis. It is amazing that you had already grown a spine at the age of 15 and stand up to your own mother!

    Usually a person does not open the gift and say something bad in front of another guest; but in your aunt’s case, it seems that both of you were very close, and she was genuinely horrified at this kind of a regift! She probably just told you her honest opinion but did not tell your mum / her sister as she did not want to hurt her. It is sad, but embarrassing to have a mother who behaves so uncouth. Getting an expensive gift was definitely not your aunt’s priority as she was so happy about your thoughtful gift (that was so sweet of her!). I have no idea how you could have handled it better. You did all you could by cleaning up and rewrapping the gift to look presentable. If you are guilty about finishing up her leftovers, well… if I were in your aunt’s boots, I’d have had no problem with a 15 year old niece of mine – who stays back to help me clean up, and who thoughtfully buys me something for my birthday out of the little that she can afford to – finish up the leftovers.

    I really don’t see what you could have done better; I acutally don’t evey see too much that is wrong on your part. Unfortunately, your mother should have known better.

  • librarianinhell April 28, 2010, 1:21 pm

    I think the OP’s mom is evil. Not paying for her daughter’s fees? At least the OP stood up to her mom to keep mom from bogarting her gift. In general, I would share with my mom (unless it looks tacky-ie, I buy a $10 gift certificate as a gift, but having 2 names as the sender would make it look cheap) but it seems the OP’s mom has a history of , um, neglect.

  • Jenna April 28, 2010, 3:48 pm

    OP, you didn’t do anything wrong! You were 15 and what a polite 15 year old you were! You sound like a very kind and considerate person.

  • Anonymous April 28, 2010, 8:42 pm

    nkkingston, it doesn’t sound like it was a school that required tuition, but just regular fees that most public schools charge. For instance, most science classes charge something like a $6 lab fee–things like that.

  • Enna April 29, 2010, 3:11 am

    That is shocking you did very well to handle the situation at the age of 15. As for your mum not paying collegue fees that is appalling – if there was a reason such as she couldn’t afford to pay them then that would have been fine but saying you should get a job to pay them is being tight fisted and a mean parent.

    In the UK some parents will sign the forms so their children can get the grants from the governement but then refuse to pay their parental contribution apparently this is optional but some students have actally taken their parents to court and won. The gist is – you had children so you should be prepared to pay any costs for that child, they are going to uni, if you can afford to pay your contribution you should pay as any caring responsible parent would.

  • nkkingston April 29, 2010, 9:24 am

    Adding to Enna, and in response to anonymous, in the UK non-fee paying schools (state schools, usually) usually only charge for school trips and school dinners, not for extra-curricular activities or class equipment. If a child doesn’t pay for a school trip they don’t go on it, and if they don’t pay for lunch they don’t eat it (though I imagine enquiries would follow pretty promptly, along the lines of “if you can’t afford it there is a free lunch program” or “are you aware little Johnny is spending the £2 lunch money you give him every day at the sweet shop outside the school gates?”). The only fee-based threat I was aware of was if you didn’t return all your text books and library books at the end of term you wouldn’t be sent your exam certificate (similar to not being allowed to graduate, except you’d probably already know your grades, and since in the past ten years I’ve never touched mine I’m fairly sure not having them to hand is no great detriment to university and school applications).

  • Challis April 29, 2010, 12:24 pm

    Commenters: nowhere does it mention that the poster is a female.

  • Enna April 29, 2010, 4:53 pm

    nkkingston – yes you are right that is a very patient fee paying school they are very quick to remove anyone who cannot afford to pay otherwise they loose money. I want to know how the person didn’t know the mother wasn’t paying for that long? Yes in the UK they do free school meal programmes for children whose families cannot afford school dinners. I would have thought American fee paying schools if the person is American would work in a simlliar way – if you miss one term’s payment you end up being kicked out. If this was higher education normally you go KNOWING you have the funds or with plans to get a job and get one so you do have the funds.

  • counselorm April 29, 2010, 8:03 pm

    OP asks how they could have handled it better… I think we all agree OP handled it better than most 15-year-olds. I would only add that I wasted a good deal of my life wondering what I could do to compensate for my mother’s shortcomings. My answer to OP — it’s not your responsibility to parent your mother. She is responsible for herself. Let her go. You just consider your own actions and treatment of people. Considering your story, I think you have a great foundation.

  • Skoffin April 30, 2010, 9:37 am

    Like everyone else said, you behaved spectacularly. Most adults wouldn’t act as classy as you did at a mere 15 years of age.
    I do not see any faux pas on behalf of the OP, especially in the case of the gift. The faux pas is on the mother for trying to put her name upon someone else’s present, no one has that right. OP was under no obligation to tact someone else’s name upon the gift being given.

  • Southern Sugar April 30, 2010, 12:29 pm

    OP, I think you handled everything beautifully, 15 or 30 or 115. You were certainly under no etiquette obligation to allow your mom to sponge off of your gift, no matter how much it cost you. And your mom sounds… let’s just say special and leave it at that. I hope you don’t continue to feel poorly about your Aunt’s birthday!

  • Maryann June 14, 2010, 9:35 am

    Personally, I don’t mind regifts (I can’t recall ever having regifted something myself, but I’ve gotten some really nice things this way and it’s just fine with me) but this is pretty incredible. A dirty kit that sat on a toilet for years? Urg.

    Also don’t have a problem with people throwing their own birthday parties. I know, I know. I understand why people consider it tacky and gimme, but if you’re having just a few friends, I just can’t get offended over it. (And no, I’ve never thrown my own party.)

    The LW did a great job, especially for her age. Good for her. I’m glad she has a wonderful aunt. I doubt she would have turned out so well under only her mother’s tutelage.