I like buying gifts and planning parties. Themes are good. A person can’t get too themey. For my daughter’s Nancy Drew-themed party, we (and by “we” I mean “I”) made a cake shaped like a giant magnifying glass and hid clues in miniature envelopes throughout the house. We (and by “we” I mean “I”) used invisible ink to write some clues. Others were in code or mirror writing. Yes, we (and by “we” I mean I) are the Da Vinci of theme parties.
For my son’s Indiana Jones party, I transformed an unfinished room into a system of tunnels filled with holy grails, ancient scrolls, hieroglyphics and snakes (Why does it always have to be snakes?). Each team of boys received a dossier with a mission and a map. Harrison Ford made a special appearance. Okay, not that last thing, but he was there in spirit (and in my fantasies).
My point is, I derive a great deal of pleasure from planning parties. I put so much effort and emotional energy into this process, that I sometimes (quite rarely, really) become a bit snappish during the process. I certainly don’t “lose it” as my children have accused. Some people just love to exaggerate. I’m not one for drama, so when one of my kids pops off with a hysterical “Look out, Mom’s gonna blow!” I have very little patience indeed.
My exuberance carries over into the buying of gifts and the sending of cards. The heck with an impersonal text or Facebook post on someone’s birthday. What kind of pre-planning does that take? I mean, how thoughtful is it really, to send a birthday greeting when you open your phone and you’re prompted, “Today is Jane’s birthday. Do you want to send a greeting?”
I’m convinced that the reason Facebook is so good at reminding people of special dates is that Mark Zuckerberg is a man, and he felt sorry for all the husbands out there who can’t seem to remember their wife’s birthday despite the fact that they can remember the score of every football game they played since junior high. I’m not sure that opening your phone on the morning of your wife’s birthday and seeing a reminder is all that helpful. Most wives would rather have a forgotten birthday - or seven - tucked away in their arsenal than a gift that was clearly purchased at the gas station on the way home from work that day.
That said, I have received some amazing gifts over the years. A favorite was one of those singing fish. I was a young woman (even younger than I am now, I mean) when those awful things came out. I wasn’t always this tactful and modest, so I was quite vocal about my opinion of the Billy Bass. Every time the commercial for the tacky thing came on, I’d say something like, “Who would buy that? Who would waste their money on that dumb Billy Bass?”
My in-laws at the time, two very sweet people that I’m still very close to, thought it would be funny to purchase the Billy Bass as a Christmas gift. Of course, hilarity ensued when I opened the gift amidst chuckles and guffaws from the family, all of whom were in on the joke.
The funniest portion of the practical joke didn’t occur until a few weeks later. My in-laws were visiting some friends for dinner and related the story of the gag gift. My mother-in-law was puzzled because she wasn’t getting nearly as many laughs as she usually did when telling the story. Gamely, she pressed on, determined to finish, even though my father-in-law had mysteriously started kicking her beneath the table. In one of those coincidences that defy explanation, the couple had, you guessed it, a Billy Bass hanging on their wall right above my mother-in-law’s head! And not so much as a joke, but as a real part of their home décor.
The singing fish made the rounds for several Christmases before I finally used it as a white elephant gift at a staff party.
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