Tuesday, December 21, 2010


I have sent everything that's probably going to get sent before the holiday. I have four cards and 3 gifts that just won't make it. That is head and shoulders above last year.

I would have stood in line at the postal facility this afternoon to ship one gift but for an email received late last night. One thing I do before going to bed is a quick swing through the email box to see if something needs answering. There was an email from "Judy", not her real name, although she has said she doesn't read my blog and finds blogs "tedious".

Judy and I have what I call a "fringe" friendship. If I think of my friendships as a dart board, some people are in the center, the heart. I would do anything for them and they would and have, done extraordinary things for me. Judy occupies that perimeter area, the "fringe", if you will. Every so often, she's capable of great kindness and insight. Most of the time, she's good for a laugh or a bright note, nothing deep, nothing remarkable. She's just, well "Judy", and I'm sure you can think of a "Judy" in your life. There are times when I wonder why I continue to consider her a friend, but I realize friends of all kinds make your life more rounded and full. She has been known to be insensitive and completely clueless to how her words and actions reflect upon her or how they hurt others.

Her gift was on the table. I was going to ship it today until I got the email last night. She sent a Christmas card this year, as she does every year. I haven't actually opened it. I've been under the weather so I've let the mail pile up. I know there will be a letter inside that talks about her medical problems (She has Inflammatory Bowel Disease. You really don't want to hear what she's been through.) and how much everything costs. She lives beyond what I could call frugal and into what I would call miserly. She once stiffed a pizza delivery guy for showing up 5 minutes before they told her the pizza would be ready. I'm not quite ready to read about the latest attempt to part her from her money.

She remarked in the email, which was forwarded to about 2 dozen friends, how blessed she was to have friends because her family just doesn't "get her". Her sister sent a card with a gift certificate for two oil changes for her car. Judy lives in a city where mass transit is available so her car usually sits. But she can put a good 100 miles on it when she does her major errands and has doctor visits. As I ponder how to wring an oil change out of my budget, I would love a gift like that.

Judy's brother came in for the most scathing commentary. He and his wife picked out a pair of vases. Judy had remarked this past summer, that she loves cut flowers and she will splurge on those but she didn't have any really nice vases for these flowers. Now she does. Plus, they sent along a Kohl's department store gift certificate. Judy had complained in October that her sweaters were getting bare in the elbows and would need to be patched. Well, thanks to that AND the after-Christmas sales, Judy could get a new sweater or two.

Now, if this were me, I would be ecstatic. Not Judy. She has a guy at church do her oil changes. How was he going to feel if she didn't have him do them? Plus, you know those oil change shops will tell you something is broken when it's not. She doesn't want to deal with that.

And her brother? What on earth was he smoking when he decided on gifts? Judy said she specifically told her siblings she wanted cash or gift certificates to the local grocery. "I cannot eat a vase. I do not want clothing. What a ridiculous waste of money!" She went on to say that she sends her siblings and family cash, "based on a sliding scale where the older a child gets, the less money they receive."

I just sighed. For a moment, let's assume Judy did make her Christmas wishes known. Knowing Judy, it wasn't in the form of, "Gee, what I'd really like is..." It was more in the form of, "I will only accept X for Christmas." I suppose we can make the case for Judy's wishes being ignored. But, what gets to me is that a gift is a gift and for all the protestations that her siblings don't "get" her, Judy doesn't "get" it.

Throughout my life, I have been the recipient of some real whoppers. I've given a few and seen a few received. I've seen the keen look of disappointment on someone's face when the beautifully wrapped present turns out to be a sweatshirt a size too small with a design on the front that really should have been discarded in the 1970's. It's hard to fake happiness when you're given a potato peeler, a package of dish towels and a set of wood spoons.

But, it seems to me, that's what being a gracious recipient is all about. The person giving you 10 pounds of cat food as a gift has gone to some sort of length to select something they think you'd like. If they haven't, then you know it by other ways they interact with you. I have had this gift for her for several years and only had the means to ship it this year. Now, I think it will go back into the gift bin and I'll consider someone else. I know these kinds of people have issues way beyond the simple, "I didn't get what I asked for". I have a feeling, even if I got something to her exact specifications, with her standing next to me, telling me what to get, it would come out sub-standard.

You won't hear me complain about a gift. Do I need a tube top and a gift certificate to Hot Topic? Well, no. I will find a way to use is because it is just that, a gift. Maybe you picked a gift card off the end cap at Dominicks at 5:00 p.m. on December 24th, but you picked it and, for that, I am grateful.

Judy will always remain a fringe friend. Some day, perhaps, when it's asked, I will tell her the reason people don't send her gifts is because she's ungrateful for whatever she does get. I don't hold my breath.

Beverage:  Water


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