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The Perfect Gift MAG
At first, I could not believe what my mom was telling me. “A reversible belt.” My voice was deadpan. Sure, Grandpa could be pretty weird, but this was going too far.
“I know it sounds like a stupid Christmas present, but Grandma said your grandpa would really like it, and ….”
“And?” I prompted. Even though I had a fairly good idea where this was heading, I wanted to see if she would really have the guts to mention our latest “falling out,” as I like to think of them.
Mom sighed. “He'd really appreciate it, Lya. You know he would. It's not like we all don't love how creative you are with your Christmas gifts …”
“… but I think it's time you thought of other people when giving gifts, instead of just making things to satisfy your curiosity.”
Could I help it if Grandpa was particularly hard to please? “So what if I don't give people what they ask for? I, personally, would much rather have something handmade than some … some belt that's brown on one side and black on the other!”
“I know you would, but Grandpa obviously really wants this, so ….”
I heaved a dramatic sigh. “Fine. I'll get the belt.”
The next day as I drove to Grandma and Grandpa's, I reviewed my situation. As soon as I'd agreed to the gift choice, my mom suggested I talk to Grandma, because she apparently knew the low-down on belts and I'm not even joking. Those were her exact words.
The snowflakes falling gently reminded me of the gift I'd constructed for my fashion-conscious mom last Christmas: a dress made of construction paper in the shape of a snowflake. A tremendously funny joke – and very stylish. She, of course, didn't think so, however much she tried to conceal it. Ah well. My unique presents can only be appreciated by some, I guess.
Ringing the doorbell, I braced myself. The crimson door was drawn aside to reveal … Grandma. Ah yes. The obviously dyed hair in tight curls, the bright patchwork cardigan, the hot-pink Birkenstocks with painfully white socks – it all added up to one slightly loopy but definitely jolly face smiling up at you. Oh, and don't forget the lipstick. Way too red, and way too sloppy.
“Lya! So nice of you to drop by. Come in.”
For a moment, Grandma looked confused. “Oh, he's taking his afternoon nap.” Sure enough, a fuzzy gray head could just be seen over the side of the leather couch. A chorus of snores radiated from the area.
Perfect. I could ask Grandma what I needed without having to hide my words from Grandpa's keen ears. Without being berated with questions like “What have you done to your hair, Lya?”
Sighing, I turned to find Grandma bustling off into the kitchen. “What can I get you, dear?” she called. “Tea? Coffee?”
I knew exactly what was coming next.
“How about some Fig Newtons?” Ha! The famous Fig Newton siege! No grandma can resist pushing those hideous cookies on their grandkids!
“No thanks,” I said. “Actually, I need to ask you something.”
She smiled wickedly at me. “What is it, dear? A rough day at school? Need advice on how to dump your boyfriend?”
“Grandma!” Shocked, I tried to compose myself. “No, that's not it. My mom said that you knew where I could get a belt for Grandpa.”
Suddenly, she was all business. “Oh yes! They're on sale at Kohl's for $11.95. Can't find a better deal. I'd go there immediately, though. I'm sure they'll sell out.”
For some reason, I was actually surprised to find the belt. It's difficult to take Grandma seriously.
The belt was … well, a belt. Black on one side, brown on the other. Nothing fancy, nothing special. It seemed ridiculous that this was something Grandpa wanted so badly, but my mom was sure it would make or break my relationship with him.
Christmas Eve found me and my family at Grandma and Grandpa's house. The joyful squeals of my younger cousins, and tired shouts of “Shut up!” from my older cousins could be heard as we walked in. The savory smell of roasting turkey made my mouth water and stomach rumble. I hadn't eaten since breakfast. Instead, I'd been downstairs working on my crazy gifts, and wrapping Grandpa's belt, which, by the way, is no easy task. Unless you put it in a box, it's pretty much a little circle – not the ideal wrapping shape.
My plan was to drop it off inconspicuously under the tree tonight. Our family tradition was that we always opened one gift each on Christmas Eve. It would be a blessing if Grandpa chose mine and got it over with it.
“Lya! Nancy, Scott! You're here!” Grandma came whizzing around the corner. Giving us each a hug, she whisked away our coats and directed me toward the family room. I looked around at my cousins. The boys were sprawled on Grandma's lumpy sofas, watching TV. The girls waved me over to their huddle.
“So, Lya,” Sarah said. “Still into the crazy gifts? I told my dad he shouldn't get his hopes up for something as cool as that ice cream hat you made him last year, but he said he could always hope!”
I laughed. I often thought Sarah and I must have been switched at birth. Her dad owned an ice cream business and played drums in a rock band. Her mom painted exotic pictures and designed the ads for their business. I would fit right in with their craziness, while Sarah would mesh perfectly with my down-to-earth marine biologist mom and engineer dad.
“Actually,” I announced to the group, “I restrained myself a bit this year. For Grandpa, I got …” I produced the wrapped bundle with a dramatic flourish. “A reversible belt!”
Nine-year-old Jessica giggled. “You're not serious.”
“I am!” Everyone was silent. Sarah was trying not to laugh. “What?”
“Oh, Lya,” she replied, grinning and shaking her head, “wait 'til you see.”
She motioned for me to follow her to the Christmas tree. Everything looked as always: the faux tree, a bit too symmetrical to be taken seriously, shimmered with colored bulbs strewn across its branches. Hundreds of ornaments dangled from it – dancing mice, trains, and tiny baby Jesuses.
Then, my eyes fell on the presents. Something was definitely strange. Wait … it was too insane to be true.
There were a number of wrapped rectangular boxes done with ribbons and bows. But there were also far too many small circular packages that looked suspiciously like the one I was holding.
I snatched one. Feeling it, there was no mistaking what was inside. “Oh. My. God.” What had Grandma done?
I looked at Sarah. She was grinning from ear to ear. “How funny is this?”
“Not funny at all! When Grandpa sees that all he's gotten for Christmas are belts, he'll freak! Especially when he sees there's one from me! He'll probably think I'm trying to insult him!”
Sarah raised her eyebrows. “Why would he think that?”
“I don't know. Because he's like that. Look, I've gotta go home and figure something out.” I scrambled toward the door, trying to find my coat. Where could Grandma have put it?
“Wait! What's the big deal? You can figure it out later. Grandpa might choose a different gift … although, technically, they're all the same.”
How could I begin to explain my burning need to please my family and fit in? “I'll be right back. Tell my mom and dad where I went, but not why.”
The construction of Grandpa's new present was completed in a frenzy. I must have gone through every cupboard in the basement before I found what I was looking for. Then came the part that's usually fun – when I'm not under loads of stress and a time crunch. Out came glue, scissors, magazines. The scissors snapped, paper flew. I found some feathers in a box, and soon, those were flying too. And the glitter! Oh the glitter!
By the end, I was filthy and likely to stick to anything I touched, but I had a gift that just might work.
I walked through the door just as everyone was gathering around the tree to begin opening their one gift. I slipped the present under the tree and slid into a chair. My mom looked at me suspiciously, but all I could do was smile. No turning back now.
“Okay,” Grandma exclaimed. “Since Grandpa is the oldest, why doesn't he pick first?”
I drew in a breath. Here we go.
Grandpa leaned forward in his chair, his lined face like a map I couldn't read. “Let's see. I think I'll choose … that one.” He was pointing at my newly arrived gift, no doubt about it. “Who could this be from?” I hadn't had time to label it.
“Um …” my voice came out as a squeak. “That's from me.”
Grandpa looked at me thoughtfully. “Lya?”
Oh, I was going to faint. His hands were at the paper, ripping it away. And there it was. My belt. My glittering, magazine plastered, feather adorned, definitely reversible belt.
There was silence in the room. Everyone was staring at my creation in Grandpa's gnarled hands. And then, to everyone's surprise, he began to laugh.
It was a rich, colorful laugh that filled the empty spaces and seemed to warm the room by 20 degrees. It swept away the tension like a broom. And soon, everyone began to smile, and then they were laughing, and I was crying and laughing at the same time.
“I love it, Lya,” my Grandpa said. “I absolutely love it.”