Opinion: A blast from Christmas past


The following is one of my favorite holiday columns that I wrote several years ago:

No one is better at returning presents than my wife; some would say it’s a gift. The only year I rivaled her was 2009. Mary Ellen checked out two novels from the library that I wanted to read. She thought it was a waste of money to actually buy the books. She wrapped them and gave them to me for Christmas. I returned both of them.

I don’t have a gift-giving knack. I am not a very good listener, which explains why three years ago I got my wife an Irish setter for Christmas when what she wanted was an Irish sweater. For a few months prior to our 25th anniversary, she began humming the tune, “I Love Paris in the Springtime.” So, I got her the sheet music. I thought she would get a kick out of knowing the words. She wasn’t pleased.

This year, for the first time in our marriage, Mary Ellen has chosen to return something before she’s even opened it. It was a Keurig Coffee Maker, the one with the compact individual containers that brew one cup at a time. We have been using a standard Black & Decker coffee maker, but I don’t like to drink liquids from an appliance made by the same people who manufacture my weed whacker. That’s not the way I want to get my buzz in the morning.

Mary Ellen walked into the room and saw the package under the tree.

“What a beautiful box—so tastefully wrapped,” she said. “I just don’t want what’s inside. I know it’s the thought that counts, but, unfortunately, I know what you were thinking. I’ll take it back today before those return lines get too long.”

“Huh? You don’t even know what it is, Mary Ellen!”

“Yes, I do.”

 “I think you’re bluffing. You have no idea what’s inside.”

“Well, let’s see. My guess is that I already have something similar, that it will take up more space on the counter than the current one, and that the little disposable containers it uses are bad for the environment. Oh, and a cup of coffee will taste exactly the same as it does now, but for three times the cost.”

“Wow, you pretty much nailed it. But other than all that, why don’t you want it?”

Mary Ellen agreed to take back the Keurig after New Year’s, just so I can say she kept one gift for at least a week. Returning a coffee maker any sooner would be grounds for divorce.


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