Besides white elephants, my mother gives another type of gift.  Once she learns that someone is “into” something, whether it’s Stash brand Licorice Spice Tea, or rubber ducks, or The Three Stooges, or perfume, she doesn’t let go.  She engages in pursuit of products matching these themes, and lavishes them unceasingly on the unwitting recipients.  My cousin is now 38, and I have no doubt she still receives rubber duckies every October for her birthday, because she once happened to mention in passing she thought they were cute.  And it’s never just one tchotchke.  I was looking for a gift for my clinical supervisor at the end of the semester to thank her for her support and mentorship, and I made the mistake of asking for help.  Mom, upon learning this woman’s penchant for making to-do lists, and her first initial, sent me 5 monogrammed packets of post-it brand list pads. 

If you let it slip that you’re having a hard time finding something, she’ll set her sights on it, and you’ll receive, in due course, 6 boxes of red bush tea, 12 cans of Chef Boyardee pasta without meatballs, 8 packs of string bikini style underwear in size 5 (okay, my secret’s out), and untold amounts of men’s shirts in neck 15, sleeve 34/35 (and so’s Mr. Apron’s). 

Each time we visit my parents’ house, there are a gross of Canada Dry ginger ale waiting for us.  Never mind that we’ve defected to Caffeine Free Diet Coke.  And I don’t know how to call her off, how to submit a cease and desist order. 

For some people it must be a joy to receive these items.  Oh, they’re so hard to find.  Oh, she knows me so well.  Oh, I’ll never run out of my specific brand of deodorant or chocolate chips.  But for others, I think it must be embarrassing. 

Which is why I ended up only giving 2 of the monogrammed listing pads to my supervisor, and gave away the others to other people with the first initial of “B”.  I think it would be awkward for them. 

All this to arrive at today’s event, a family dinner, transpiring in 3 minutes (Mr. Apron, where are you?).  Mr. Apron’s big sister is having a birthday today, and I let slip to my mother that she was having trouble finding 5oz Dixie cups with Spongebob on them.  Her favorite motif in bathroom cups.  This week, in a large carton, arrived 2 boxes (total 180) of Spongebob cups, plus 4 packs of 10 each (40 total) Spongebob lunch bags, and a Spongebob bubble bath thingy.  I wrapped up the Dixie cups, and made an executive decision to save the rest for Hanukkah.  I just couldn’t present all the stuff tonight next to her other gifts…Mr. Apron’s family is not a pile-o’presents family.  They choose, instead, a few thoughtful gifts that don’t clutter the recipient’s house.  My family is–haven’t you guessed by now?– the inventor of the piles.  Much is “cute” gifts, tchotchkes, inexpensive things Mom collects all year long with the recipient in mind.  She LOVES having these missions, these quests for hard-to-find or special-interest gifts.  She loves giving. 

You’d just better make sure to send a thank-you note, or  you’ll suffer donations in your name to wildlife foundations instead.  No one, not even Mr. Apron’s family, wants that.  She will rarely kick you off the list entirely, but you’ll get spoken of in tense tones as the one who didn’t send a thank you note, or the one who sent only 1 note for all four gift giving occasions in the past year.  Oh, yes, there are tallies.  And terse words. 

Remember folks; send a thank-you note.  Yes: even for 5oz. Spongebob cups.

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