I sometimes listen to the segments on radio stations where the DJs ask callers to phone in with their answers to the question, “What is the worst Christmas present you’ve ever received?”
I did not have a recent example so I listened as caller after caller told their tales of the worst presents. Some of them were awful like a mother-in-law got the daughter-in-law tickets to go deep sea fishing even though she knew the daughter couldn’t go because she was pregnant. The MIL had someone in mind to replace the daughter-in-law before she even gave her the tickets!
I thought I would never be able to call into a radio show for the worst Christmas present ever but now I can.
A few days before Christmas, my husband placed a wrapped gift for me underneath the tree. He seemed so proud of himself that I instantly became very excited because he’s never proud of himself when it comes to gifts–I usually write out a long list that the kids and Nick pick from in order to get something decent. Don’t get me wrong–I’m not this greedy kind of woman who wants the world. I usually ask for things like “a picture painted by Madison,” or “a sculpture created by Sam,” and a day at the nail salon from my oldest knowing full well that I will take her AND I will pay for whatever she wants done.
I waited impatiently for Christmas, hoping for something so cool or clever. My mind raced with possibilities and that was probably my first mistake. I’ve been waiting for a new car for over a year so I thought maybe he had a key to a new car and he wrapped it up in a box. I thought he might have heard my hints about all the trips I wanted to take. He knows how much I love to see snow and trees so maybe a trip to the snow and trees was in the box! Perhaps it was a spa day at La Costa Spa and he wrapped up something I could read in between treatments. The box with my name on it made my imagination go wild.
Christmas morning arrived and the whole family was sitting near the tree on the couch. I was sitting on the floor handing out gifts to everyone. I passed one to Sam, one to Madison, one to Devon, and one to Nick. Nick got more this year than I normally get him so he was busy opening presents for a while.
It was finally my turn. Nick told me to unwrap the present he had gotten me. I found the present under the tree, noticed that in the ‘to’ section, he had written Catherine which is something he’s never done before. I unwrapped the paper only to reveal a box, the kind that you get when you order something from Amazon. He wrapped the Amazon box in Christmas paper. I took the packing tape off the box and opened it. I couldn’t wait to see what was inside. I was like a little girl knowing she was going on a Disney Cruise as a special treat. The anticipation was killing me.
I opened the flaps of the box and peeked inside. My eyes found the contents and could not compute what they were seeing.
Inside the box were 12 fake limes.
The smile fell from my face as I looked up inquisitively. Nick said something or other of which I don’t recall. All I remember is thinking that I had a box of 12 fake limes, each individually wrapped in plastic with a sticker on each of them which read ‘Made in China.’
I knew what the limes were for. I have a buffet in the dining room and on it is a vase that Nick loves. It’s lime green and nothing we own matches it but one day I had the idea to grab a basket we already had on hand and buy real limes for it. It was a real decorator moment as I realized I just needed one or two things to match the vase in order to make it feel like it was put their intentionally, not stubbornly. Every ten days or so I have to buy more limes as the others get hard and turn black.
The rest of the unwrapping progressed and I waited for another gift from Nick. We usually have one big gift per person and then several smaller ones. It’s a tradition that was started over 25 years ago.
The final presents were opened and I was left knowing that the only gift I had gotten for Christmas from my husband was a box of 12 fake limes. After 25 years of marriage, I got fake fruit. No sweaters, no purses, no perfume, no jewelry, nothing. He had gotten me a $30 box of fake limes for Christmas from Amazon so he didn’t even have to go out and brave the crowds in order to make the purchase.
I walked around the house in a daze the rest of the day. I tried to participate in the family activities but I was so depressed. I listened to my meditation app to try to get out from under my mood, and when the rest of the family went to the movies, I stayed home thinking I could shake off my sadness if I were alone. I took a nap instead, again, hoping that I could get the fog to lift.
After my nap, I went downstairs to start Christmas dinner. Nobody was home yet and it was getting late. I did end up talking to my sister and my mom while putting the family meal together which was nice. I got to tell them the story of my limes and they told me how sorry they were. My sister’s husband is normal so he bought thoughtful gifts for her. Meanwhile, I got plastic limes.
I kept my sour mood until the 26th when I realized it wasn’t about me anymore. I was no longer a kid. What was important was that my kids had fun and got what they wanted (they did). I was perfectly capable of buying whatever I needed and I should never look to others for my own happiness.
Each time I walk past those limes in my dining room, I’m reminded that happiness is up to me and no one else. And I’m also reminded that I have a reason to call the radio stations next year and tell my story. Hopefully I will make the listeners laugh as they realize just how lucky they are that they don’t have such a sad tale to tell. There’s always a silver lining to every disappointment or failure–you just need to find it.