MISS MOOX + time


I have an aunt who has an amazing talent.

You know how some people are really great at picking out presents that you love? That are so perfectly "you" that even if you hadn't known you wanted them, you wonder how you ever lived without them? Consistently, birthday after birthday, Christmas after Christmas, they succeed in picking out the perfect gift. Their track record is flawless.

Well, my aunt has the opposite gift.

My aunt is a dear. Even now that I am grown and well past the stage that she could be considered obligated, she still faithfully buys, packages, and sends gifts every birthday and Christmas. And not just to me, but (I believe) to each of my brothers and sisters. That's five nieces and nephews, all of whom live on the opposite side of the continent to her, but whom she never fails to remember on special occasions. I'm astonished by it.

However, what I'm equally and consistently astonished by is the sheer inappropriateness, time after time, of all of her presents.

I would never, ever, of course, say this to her. I am floored by her generosity, which goes far beyond the call of duty. I faithfully send her thank-you notes and disreetly re-home her presents.

But they are nearly always so completely out of place that the excitement of getting a packet in the mail is almost totally balanced out by the sad realization that I will probably have to give it away.

This has been the case as far back as I can remember. When I was seven years old, my aunt sent me a Barbie doll for Christmas. And not just any Barbie doll, but a pink-tutu-clad ballerina Barbie with a dazzling frozen smile and tight pink plastic ballet shoes stuck on her impossibly-pointed feet.

The irony of this was not lost on me even then. For you see, I was the quintessential tomboy. I rough-housed with my brothers, played in the dirt, and never touched dolls. In fact, one year when my brothers got Tonka trucks and I got a dainty doll tea set, I cried until I was given a Tonka truck too. Pink ballerina Barbies, and the girls who played with them, were the objects of my scorn.

This Barbie would probably have been the dream of any other little girl my age. But I was so completely disappointed by it that it's the only present I remember from that Christmas.

I didn't throw that Barbie out. But I didn't know what to do with it either. I hid it away in a bottom drawer and it went with us when we moved the next year. In fact, my well-meaning grandmother even bought me more outfits for it the next Christmas, which I promptly lost. I think she was trying to turn me into a girl.

A couple of years later, that poor Barbie became the object of my agressions. I stripped all of her clothes off, cropped her long blond plastic hair down to the absurd plug lines in her scalp, and threw her back in the drawer. Eventually, she was thrown away in a cleaning binge.

But my dear aunt has continued her track record, for example one year sending a painted slate plaque with some kind of inspirational verse on it; another year sending a flag with a chicken on it and "God bless this home" designed to be flown outside a house (I don't have a house?). I abhor knickknacks and decorative items; am not domestic; and keep my possessions to an absolute minimum. Anyone who knows me well, knows that I can't abide clutter or kitsch.

One year, she actually veered away from the trend and sent me quite a pretty necklace, a small turquoise-and-silver charm strung on a delicate silver chain. Though it isn't normally the style of jewelry I wear, it's truly lovely and it's still sitting in my jewelry box.

So I continue to receive the presents, and send grateful thank-yous. Why? Because in this case, it really is the thought that counts. And while I wish the money to buy the gifts and the postage to send them wouldn't be wasted, there's no way I'd ever say so to her. In the meantime, there's always Goodwill. Or friends, who have the same taste she does. God bless my aunt.

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