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Sunday, January 08, 2006

Unwanted Gifts are the Saddest Things...

I remember when my mother made me take gymnastics in the second grade. Anyone who knows me knows I am a man's man. Sure, I like musicals and stuff like that, but when it comes down to it, I look like a guy you don't want to piss off, not because I'm physically large, but because I exude an unpredictable aura that often gives off the message, "Mess with me and I might make the cells in your skull spontaneously vaporize." I'm a man's man. I don't take gymnastics.
My mother, who has always been quick to doubt her children and assume that if she does not take immediate action to remedy problems her disillusioned mind invents for them, they will spontaneously collapse into a puddle of disrepairable waste, decided that if I did not take gymnastics I would die and go to hell. Well, she didn't put it exactly that way, but pretty close. If you can't tell, there's a little anger there--I forgive, but can never forget that my mother forced me to all extremes against my will to take gymnastics, despite the fact that I would openly and purposefully injure myself just to get out of it, and right in front of her face, as I explained exactly what I was doing.
Well, this horrible gymnastics period (I can't even remember what my cover lie was at school, but thankfully the horrible truth never made it too far) lasted for about a year.
Eventually, the gymnastics Christmas party rolled around. My mother is a chef. She can make desserts like nobody's business (this is a Southern expression that means 'like no one else'). Well, my mom decided to make some kind of strange experimental cookie. Seeing a picture of the desert and it's ingredients beforehand, I vehemently protested that my mom just make regular cookies, but she (of course) wouldn't listen. She made the cookies, put them in a wooden tray, and covered them in clear Saran wrap.
When we got to the party, mom set the cookies on the table and spread open the Saran wrap in a very deliberately stylistic way, as if to say "Welcome. Enjoy." I didn't just make this up. When I saw her open the cookies, a shudder ran through my entire body along with the words "Welcome. Enjoy."
No one ate those cookies. No one even tried them. They just sat there for two hours as everything else disappeared. I, being an angry bitter child, ran up to my mom and said, "See! I told you you should have just made chocolate chip!" She made a strange face. Suddenly, I ran off, hid, and cried. Sure, I was embarrassed that the snack I brought was something no one wanted--but, I was filled with a strange, alien sadness for my mother. I felt as if she had opened up and offered herself to the entire spinning world of 1989, and that world had said, "We have enough of what WE want already. We don't need or want anything you can offer. We don't even care that you exist." Add to this story the fact that I could not stand most of the people at this gymnastics school in the first place and found their parents to be even more dreadful--snobby country-clubbers with snobby children.
This stupid cookie incident haunted me for months. Sometimes, I would start crying about it at night for no other reason. Sometimes, this was accompanied by a Goofy imitation (Goofy, the Disney character) of my mother that said, 'They're gonna love this!' as the wrap around the cookies was spread open again and again.
So I'm a man's man, but I'm way, way too sensitive.
Anyway, I am still sometimes haunted by this stupid cookie incident everytime I see someone (including myself) get a gift they do not in the least bit want or care about, given by someone who has put their heart and soul behind the gift.
Have you ever had someone show you a gift for someone else, and then have that person look at you nervously and ask, "Do you think they will like it?" Have you ever known with everything in you that the gift is something not only the intended recepient would not like, but something NO ONE would like? Does this whole idea make you really sad? Do you sometimes even begin to think of the manufacturer of the gift in the first place and feel sad for them--that they, like my mother, made something no one wants?
A week later, on Christmas day at my grandmother's, my mother brought the entire tray of untouched cookies for the family to share. This time, a few people tried a couple. Most of the cookies still went untouched, but at least people, my family, tried them.
I don't think my mother ever made those stupid cookies again, but every time I get a gift I don't want, or see someone else get a gift they do not want, I feel an immense, indescribable sadness, and I think about those white, spidery cookies.
Those who know me personally or read this blog know I can be a bit histrionic, but I really can't think of any other abstract concept that makes me this sad. Often, I feel like I am the only one even noticing that this sadness is occuring, and that makes me more sad.
Just something I encounter during the holidays.
If unwanted gifts make you sad, you don't care about unwanted gifts, you think I am a nerd/turd, please tell me about it in ye old comments.
I'm not sad right now, or in need of a hug. This was just one of the 9,006 things on my mind at the moment.
Speaking of my mind, I am at a much different place than I was a year ago--literally.
I have a goal: to go back to school (and I'm trying).
I have a new job: I'm a library moonlighter!...don't worry, though, I'm still crawfishing in the mornings.
I have a new church and 'denomination' that I can actually get behind: Goodbye spiritual misery.
I have a new girlfriend: Her name is...haha, just kidding. Still single.
I have new artistic experiences: I'm creating new stories and witnessing new stories.
So, I am feeling pretty good right now, even though I just spilled 32! ounces of coke in the back of my car!
See you.

9 comments:

jess said...

I don't know about gifts but your story reminded me of some with my mom while growing up. Once, something so strange made me sad for my mom. I don't even know that she cared about the event nearly as much as I did but even years later I would think of it and it would make me tear up. I've had my issues with my mom but I knew that she was well meaning and when I even wrongly perceived that her feelings might be hurt? It hurt me deeply, too. *sighs* I sometimes wonder if I'm too empathetic with some people.

I think I am, at times.

Jordan said...

Good to hear about the new job, Nic. Hope you're liking it. Your at Zachary, right?

Hope the graduate school stuff is all going good, and the the same for your story writing.

About unwanted gifts and past events: I guest we all harbor a little masochistic guilt sometimes. I know I can be real sensitive and selfish around Christmas time, and if I don't watch it, I can end up beating myself up, having not considered other people's feelings

Take care,

Jordan.

-E said...

Hope you had a decent new year. And that 2006 has you seeing more of your goals come to be. *hug* I'm back.

Nicholas said...

Jess: Mother-child issues are strange. I've had an interesting relationship with both parents--I love em both, though (I guess... :). I still can't understand, though, why certain issues involving them make me sad, or worried. In relation to the unwanted gift thing, I get really sad when it involves anyone. I don't know why. In a lot of my writing or film work, I seem to focus on sad little moments that most people don't seem to notice--in fact, sometimes I think I am the only person noticing them.
J'man: Zachary, it is. I am definately enjoying it, so far. Grad school stuff is coming along. I am about halfway through with applying. I have not put as much time into writing over the last month as I have wanted to, but I have been reading like CRAZY!
I am not really talking about masochistic guilt in my post, though, at least not in this instance. I'm really just talking about the sadness of noticing something no one else has noticed, feeling that sadness should be acknowledged, and not really knowing why. I have definately had Christmas pasts where I was REALLY selfish, though.
E: Welcome back, and thank you! I hope the same for you!

Jordan said...

Ok. haha. I was a bit off, but yeah I think I know what you're saying. When something sad or wrong happens and goes unnoticed it makes it even more sad. You feel like your the only one in the world who understands. I can't think of any event in my life right off the top of my head though. Unwanted gifts are pretty sad, especially if time and heart were put into them.

Good to hear your enjoying the work and that grad school stuff is coming along.

I haven't been writing too much either, but I guess in the same vein as you, working to make some older work better. Maybe one day though, some of us here will actually get to read your stuff ;). (your getting too hyped up though, like Sufjan, I might have to wait a while to read it if you ever release something lol)

Reading like CRAZY is fun :).
I bren cruising on some Steinbeck lately. Good stuff.

J'man

jess said...

Believe me, Nicholas, strange parental relationships? I definitely understand. With mine, I had to learn to let go of a lot of things and realize that I'm so utterly wonderful and independent because I had to be in the situation I was in. *winks* Just kidding. Seriously, though, everyone I know asks how I ended up how I did once they know about my family and, especially, my sister, who is my complete opposite. I say we always have these choices: We can become what we've learned to dislike or we can choose to be what we want to be in the situation. I chose to be strong-willed and independent over selfish and co-dependent. *chuckles wryly* I guess this is part of the reason I don't mind living away from my family, more than likely.

Jon said...

I think you're a nerd/turd. Why haven't you called me yet?!?! You said you would call, but you weren't even there when I woke up? I thought you loved me. You said you never felt like this about anyone. What happened NIc?!?!?!?!?!

Jon

Amy said...

I am sitting at work right now, unable to do anything but worry myself sick over hurting my mom's feelings. I am 32 years old and acted this Christmas like a spoiled 4 year old and the sadness you describe is what I have been filled with for a week.

My mom doesn't know how to buy presents - she either thinks I am still 14 or thinks of things she would like and purchases them.

Usually it works out okay given that my siblings and I still give her Christmas lists each year - the gifts we get that we don't like are always ones that she strayed from the list to buy but they are a handful and I end up giving them away or in some instances tossing them in the trash 6 months later.

My mom announce at Thanksgiving this year that she wasn't doing lists anymore.

I should have said something then.

My sister and I spent the next month having anxious and annoyed conversations. We both agreed - and I am honest here - it isn't about the presents. I don't want or need anything really and would be happy just spending a relaxed day with my family.

Getting a ton of presents (I'm talking 30-35) which are entirely things that are so....inappropriate and useless to me is so stressful. I live in a tiny apartment alone and again, am 32. I have cabinets filled to the brim, more knick-knacks than I can count and not a smidge of closet or storage space.

I worried that I would get things I had not even the space for, let alone liked or would ever use. I hate clutter and hate waste.

And my Christmas morning was spent opening 35 presents I will never use - books I owned already, clothes I would never wear, and presents appropriate for a 12 year old (an Eyeore purse and kitten sun-catcher for example).

I was so...mad. I was mad that I had to deal with this and mad that my mom decided to change the way we do Christmas mad that she clearly doesn't listen or know me and mad that she wasted all of her time and money buying me these things.

I left 75% of these presents in a pile on a chair in her house on Christmas day and announced that these were to be returned.

About 3/4 of the way down the driveway the horror of what I did hit me and I felt that sadness - my mom offered herself up via her gifts and did the best she could and I rejected her in that very way you described. The sadness was overwhelming and I spent an hour in the tub that night sobbing with guilt.

I am choked up typing this. I feel awful and there simply is no way to undo what I have done. And there is no way to explain it to my mother (who has not spoken to me for a week and according to my father has been crying every day).

Anyhow, I was sitting here morosely searching the internet for any stories or articles about gift returns and stumbled across your lovely and touching story.

Thanks for putting words to my sentiments.

Nicholas said...

Amy,
I have no idea how long it has been since you posted this. I know it has been more than three years since I made my original post. I am glad it was some help to you.
Your comment choked me up, too. I hope in the years or months since you've posted this, things between you and your mother have worked out.
God Bless,
Nicholas