“Dad bought that TV we were going to get them!”
“Crap.” I sighed. “Who the heck buys themselves a present the week before Christmas?”
“Our Dad, apparently.”
My sister Karen is on the phone. Dad has been talking, since Thanksgiving, about the flatscreen TV he wants. He's described the size of the screen, the wall anchoring system, what the “HD” stands for, eventually drifting off into a description of the very first TV he ever saw, and finishing up with a prediction regarding facial pores and their future on the big screen.
We had assumed that all of this was a long, elaborate hint and had, in a series of sometimes obscene and occasionally misspelled e-mails between the three of us, agreed to split the cost.
Now, less than three weeks before Christmas, Dad’s gone ahead and bought a flatscreen TV.
I call my mother. "Dad bought a TV? A week before Christmas?"
She sighs. "He wouldn't shut up about it..."
"Yeah, but what do I do now? I thought it was a done deal."
"You know," she says, "He could use a nice shirt."
"A shirt? Instead of a TV?"
"A nice one."
"So would the wrinkle-free part of the shirt count as a gift for you?"
"It would, unless of course I have children who love me. If my children love me, however, the gift to me will be costume jewelry."
"Not expensive, but not plastic. A little on the heavy side."
"Something with a nice clasp."
So it is settled. We've gone from $170 or so for my parents' gift to maybe $70.
As Dad likes to say, you can tell someone from the family, but you can't tell 'em much.