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Am I Going To End Up In The ‘Shit Gift Room’ This Year?

Christmas. I love it. Like really love it. I am one of those people you love to hate – I make lists all year, listening to what my kids have randomly mentioned as we’ve been window shopping, or watching what they’ve taken a keen interest in on TV. I have lists on my phone – Gift Ideas, Bought Gifts, Still to Buy, Already Wrapped. And I can honestly say, unless my kids are extraordinarily gifted (see what I did there?) in acting, that I have rarely got it wrong.

Then there is my mother. And that is a completely different ball game. I actually break out in a sweat when it comes to choosing a gift for her. I’m 47 years old, and buying a present for my Mum is worse than sitting an exam. I would rather be put under interrogation by some secret military organisation than have to think of a gift for my Mum.

It all stems, according to my inner Freud, from my childhood. When I was around 7 or 8 years old, I saved all my pocket money for a few weeks so I could buy her a birthday present. Now, none of us knew my Mum’s age – she would always lie or tell us to mind our own business – so it’s no surprise that I got the date wrong. My older sister took me into town, and I picked out a beautiful African Violet in a wicker basket. I used all my pocket money, and I kept it under my bed, watered it, and looked after it until the big day.

I was so excited. I couldn’t wait to see her face. But I was a day late. I missed her birthday by a day. To this day I am not sure how that happened; why didn’t anyone tell me? I can’t remember anyone else giving her gifts, and I don’t recall seeing any birthday cards. But that morning, this little girl carefully carried this beautiful African Violet, in its hinged wicker basket, downstairs to present to my Mum.

I stood before her, like Oliver Twist, and handed her the basket. She took it. She looked at me. Then she threw the entire thing at the opposite wall, screamed at me that her birthday was yesterday, and stormed out of the room.

When I could eventually move, I walked slowly over to my gift. The tiny, delicate, velvety petals were bruised, and the stems were all broken. Soil was strewn all over the floor and the hinge on the wicker basket was hanging off. It was smashed beyond repair.

I have never forgotten that.

And that is why now, at the ripe old age of 47, I still panic. And it’s entirely justified.

My mum has a spare bedroom, ‘lovingly’ dubbed the Shit Gift Room. And it is there that all the gifts she receives, which she deems not good enough, get thrown – every Christmas and every birthday. Not just mine, which makes me feel slightly better, but other family members’ too.
A few years ago I bought her a CD – The Bee Gees as I recall, as she had always loved them. It was their greatest hits. I wrapped it, and gave it to her. She opened it, tossed it aside, and said ‘You bought me the same frigging CD last year.’ I hadn’t, it had only just come out, but I had bought her a different one the previous year. That now resides in the Shit Gift Room.

Mum complained that her CDs were always strewn around, so I bought her a CD rack – I deliberately bought one which needed minimal assembly. That is also in the Shit Gift Room, presumably keeping the Bee Gees company. There are also gift sets of body wash, perfume, and a book I once bought her in a bid to give her something to keep her occupied – she has never read a book, and she frequently complains of being bored so I chose one I thought would interest her.

My children will testify to the fact that, even though I have put months of thought into Christmas, I will consistently apologise for the gifts I give, the number of gifts I give – I always keep receipts in case they want to return them. I have this built-in fear that they will hate what I have given them and as I have no Shit Gift Room, these gifts would have nowhere to go but back to the shop.
So now, once again, I am working my way through my list. And once again I have no clue as to what to give my Mum. And once again, I am panicking.

Any ideas, anyone?

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