I love my cousins, I really do. While they're considerably older than I, we're very close, and they're more like sisters to me than cousins. But there is one particular issue I have with them that I've just given up on: gift-giving.
Now, let me say here that I am no mercenary. I truly believe that it is the thought, not the gift, that matters. I love giving gifts, and I do so because I like making the recipients happy, and it gives me a charge to do so. But there is a certain point at which it becomes ridiculous.
First, a little background.
My cousins, Jane and Sue, are twins. For years, Jane and Sue would give one combined Christmas gift to each family member (me, their mother & father, our grandmother, my mother & father, etc.), and they would get two in return (one for each of them) from each of us. Well, that's fine--it's all about the season, right? Right. Loving and sharing, etc. Great.
Then Jane got married to Bob. So we would each get one gift from Jane, Sue, and Bob . . . and they would get three. That's okay! Remember, it's about family and love and togetherness. Not about the presents.
Then Jane and Bob had a little boy, Teddie. So we would each get one gift from Jane, Sue, Bob, and Teddie . . . and they would get four. It's fine. Really.
Then Sue got married to Rick. And then we would each get one gift from Jane, Sue, Bob, Teddie, and Rick. And they would get five.
Okay, now it's reached the ridiculous point.
But again--I kept remind myself that it's all about loving and sharing and giving and taking care of your fellow humans . . . not the presents. I bought them things because I love them and want to do so, not because I feel like I should or because I expect something in return.
Even though I always managed to get the worst presents possible from them.
They don't seem to have this problem with their parents or my parents or our grandmother or their brother and his wife and son . . . but when it comes to me, they give me the strangest, most random things. Like the year they gave me a gallon jug of Bullfrog sunblock. Or the time they gave me a small decorative basket of fragrant soaps in the shape of roses. That was nice . . . but one could imagine it more in an older person's home. I was 12 and living with my parents. What on Earth would a 12-year-old do with a basket of decorative soaps?
But I never, ever said anything. I don't want to look a gift horse in the mouth or seem greedy or ungrateful. I always cheerfully accepted what they gave me and said "thank you." I never even complained to my parents.
And, again, I loved giving them gifts--I would go out of my way to buy them each something I knew they'd like, agonizing over little details and shopping endlessly for the perfect thing. Even when I was younger and didn't have very much money, I tried to put thought and care into what I got them. Jane likes Snoopy--I got her a Snoopy Christmas ornament. Sue likes Fleetwood Mac--I got her a greatest hits album. Bob is an avid tennis player--I got him a case of tennis balls. Teddie got something appropriate for his age, toys of some sort. Rick is into Harleys--I got him a Harley belt buckle.
So this went on for years, until I was about 26.
That's when I'd reached the boiling point.
I had a good job and was making a decent amount of money. I wanted to make sure I got them something personal, something nice. They are all avid outdoors people, so I bought them all fleece pullovers. I bought Teddie about $50 in toys. I probably spent a grand total of about $350 on the five of them.
Jane had asked me what I wanted for Christmas a few months earlier, and I said I wanted a metal "alumni" license-plate frame from my undergrad school, which would be very easy, since they lived close to the school.
And that's exactly what I got.
From the five of them.
It cost $4. How do I know this?
They left the tag on the back.
MY COMMENTS: I'm really torn on this one. On one level the author clearly got short-changed when it came to gift-giving. But on the other hand, it was clearly her choice to spend heaps of money on presents for her cousins and their families. Since she was a child, they had given her cheap, generic gifts, so she knew what to expect. It sounds like she thought that by buying them heaps of expensive presents, they would be encouraged to reciprocate by buying HER lots of presents too.
If, after years of getting one gift from 5 people, why didn't she just buy a combined present for her cousins and their families?
And as for the present she received - what is she complaining about? That was exactly what she asked for!