The perfect gift: your choice

What do you buy for the birthday honoree who asks for gifts that cost less than $5?  When this request arrived via email I ignored it. It sounded too much like the rule of the annual Christmas gag gift party my husband and I go to, except that gift, as well as being cheap, must also be horrid.

Most of us would find the under-$5 request challenging to fulfill. Perhaps a loaf of bread, or this month, a gallon of gas. However, our creative host for this particular birthday party scrounged around in her basement and found not one, but three gifts.  Later, she took us on a tour of said basement, so we could put in our requests for our own future, previously-owned birthday presents.

Choosing one’s own gifts — whether in a store or someone’s basement — has always seemed the sensible thing to do for the obvious reason that you get what you want. Even more important, it spares you that uncomfortable moment when you are looking at something you would never choose for yourself and the gift-giver is searching your face for the joyful expression that is not appearing nearly fast enough.

In her hilarious poem, “Gifts that keep on giving,” Marge Piercy catalogs undesirable gifts (and given the size of the list she must have had many bad experiences in gift receiving), starting with the most common unwelcome Christmas offering – fruitcake. She goes on to describe majolica vases “in the shape of wheezing frogs,” “gloves to fit three-toed sloths,” “mufflers of screaming plaid acrylic,” and many more.

These days most of us have too much stuff, so buying adults gifts other than the disposable kind (as in, those disposed of by eating) just seems wrong. But opening our closets, drawers and bookshelves to friends and sharing something of ours with them, might be a satisfying way to create enough space in the basement or garage. This allows us to reposition something from the house to one of those sites.

Of course we all have treasures that we aren’t ready to part with. In my case, the shelf of gag gifts we’re saving until December is definitely off-limits.


Ann Oxrieder has lived in Bellevue for 35 years. She retired after 25 years as an administrator in the Bellevue School District and now blogs about retirement at http://stillalife.wordpress.com/.

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