My parents (now divorced) were not wealthy by any means. I grew up in a trailer on a plot of land owned by my father’s side of the family. My father, an auto mechanic, earned a less than modest wage and my mother was a homemaker and stay at home Mom. I know now that she suffered from anxiety and crippling depression, but back then I just remember her reading a lot of books. Come Christmas time, the books would be set aside for holiday baking and decorating and the wrapping of the gifts.
I wasn’t much of a snooper because I enjoyed the surprise. I’ve always been a lousy liar so trying to feign surprise or gratitude was beyond my kid skills. Honesty is the best policy, an adage I still believe in.
Another reason acting surprised was a challenge was because my parents… well, my mother, I mean let’s be honest, my father NEVER shops for other people. He gets everyone around him to shop for him so he never has to set foot in a store OR you just get some crumpled twenties in a card. My mother was solely responsible for making my Christmas a success. The only problems were that a) She had extreme anxiety and HATED shopping or going out in public in general and b) She only had the money my father gave her to buy my presents.
I first learned my mother was a Substitute gifter when I asked for my first real Barbie at age 5. All I had were those flimsy soft plastic dolls that kind of resembled Barbies but clearly weren’t. They were like Barbie’s ugly cousin from the valley. Remember those? Somebody would squeeze a leg and that was it, the leg would stay that way like some kind of deflated sucked in, fucked up amputee. I never had a Ken doll either. My parents seemed to think that Ken would be anatomically correct and that was something I didn’t need to see. a) I’m gay. That would NOT have been a problem. b) Most people realize that Barbie and Ken dolls do not have genitalia. They just have bumps and lines where genitalia should be. I had a Tony Doll. Tony’s whole body was made of that crappy collapsible plastic that the valley whore “Barbies” are made from. My cousin used to squeeze his head until it flattened out and stayed that way. Eventually, Tony came apart at the waist so Barbies would fight over who would date Torso Tony, complete with head, and who would date Legs Tony ultimately making him 2 separate entities. Fuck Tony.
Then I wanted the Barbie camper. Boy for a lesbian, you sure liked Barbies. Yes. Yes I did. I made up Soap Opera like stories that sometimes played out for days just like in my mom’s Soaps. One Barbie would be gay, another would kill herself over a lost child or ruined career. Tony would come apart and love 2 women at the same time. I was a little dramatic, and again, I watched my mother’s Soaps a little too frequently.
When Christmas arrived that year I was beyond stoked! Oh man I wanted that camper complete with tiny barbecue and little steaks and a picnic table and chairs and a shower inside.. It was SOOO COOOOL. It was all I talked about for months. Christmas day came, I opened the very last present with all my hopes tied in that bow I carefully (my mother reused the bows) removed and placed aside. The box didn’t seem big enough though. Maybe it has to be put together I wishfully thought to myself secretly praying. Here it comes…. It was a horse. The Barbie horse. Not the cool Palomino with the jointed legs either. Just like, a plastic horse statue of sorts .. I did not ask for this horse. Why Mom? That year, my cousin got the Barbie camper. I cried in my bedroom when I got home from visiting her.
The next painful lesson I learned was when I asked for the Lego Space set. I’ve always been in to space, astronomy, Star Trek and Lego so the Space Set looked like it was for me and the commercials were awesome! I planted my seeds and eagerly awaited the 25th.
Unwrapping all my gifts, I saw no Lego set. There was one more. A huge heavy box. Oh Snap! This must be it. Tearing back the paper… I saw… horses. More fucking horses! It was a Loc Blocs Medieval Castle. Jesus, they didn’t even get the time frame right! Going back in to history when I wanted to go where no woman has gone before. I couldn’t hide my disdain. “But.. this isn’t Lego Space at all..” My mother assured me that this had way more pieces and would be more fun. “Look, it has a drawbridge“, she persisted. I didn’t care about the drawbridge, the smug little faces on the Loc Blocs knights’ stupid faces. I wanted to build a damn space ship.
I came home the first day back to school after Christmas vacation to find my Loc Blocs castle fully assembled, working drawbridge and all, and my parents tipsy. To this day, I’m not crazy about horses.
Do you give your kids substitute gifts? Don’t you love your kids? Why would you do that to them? Did you get substitutes as a kid? #KidsRemember
Live Humbly, Be Charitable, Live Graciously,
Crack whore Barbie-ish https://www.pinterest.ca/terribunz/barbie-bashin/?lp=true