She got a robe  

December 29, 2022

   I’ll admit it right up front: I’m flummoxed by Christmas, especially the gifting part. I have three granddaughters, and I swear there are times when I think I can buy each of them a box of cigars and they’d all be happy. The oldest is 11, yet I imagine the three of us lighting up around an E Z Bake oven and telling stories of wasted youth.

   It’s worse with Carol. It’s enough that I vainly hope she doesn’t wake up each morning facing a world of regret. It goes without saying there’s no way I could possibly surprise or even please her at Christmas. I usually go with books (why I should think a book affects her the way it does me does not enter into my thinking) or jewelry (the true desert of the clueless male.)

   But I discerned over the years that we’ve been together that Carol wears a robe upon awakening in the morning, and I thought – aha – I bet that’s something! My Amazon search produced a plush blue robe that I had only to match up with the size of the one she’d been wearing since I’ve known her. Of course, the labels didn’t sync, but there was an “M” in both that seemed right, and I hit the “buy with one click” button.

   Christmas morning I was genuinely excited. Not for the Michelle Obama book or the heart shaped necklace I was giving her, but for the robe! There’s no way she’d be expecting that, and I was right. She loved it, much more than the Obama book, which I had ordered in Spanish by mistake, and the necklace, which at first glance she believed I had given her last year. 

   But the robe was such a hit with her, she couldn’t wait to share her happiness with her family. And that’s when the whole Potemkin Village of joy collapsed. When she announced her special gift, Carol’s family broke out in laughter – not the good kind, but the kind that follows walking out of a restroom with toilet paper stuck to your shoe. The next thing Carol knew was her daughter cueing up YouTube to an SNL musical skit about an unappreciated wife and mother getting a robe for Christmas.

   Hey, wait a minute. I put a lot of thought into this. This wasn’t about indifference; if I wasn’t doing my job as a doting husband, I would have bought Carol a box of cigars. So now I’m an SNL sketch? I could just see all of them, pointing at me and sniggling into their shoulders. Even Maddie was pointing a mocking finger at me. And she’s only 18 months old for crying out loud.

   It all just confirms my worst fears. Every Christmas present I’ve ever bought, I’ve always read the fine print on returns and exchanges. Returns and exchanges: for me, those are the gifts that keep on giving.

   But I’m not a quitter. Next year I’ll be back on the horse. Like I observed with her old robe, I’ll be watching Carol to see the thing she does the most frequently around the house. Off the bat, I’m thinking a vacuum cleaner. Maybe one of those robot ones. 

   Whadda you think? Here, have a cigar.

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