Opinion: Expecting the element of no surprise


After Mary Ellen and I got married, we discovered we had a true cultural divide when it came to gift giving. In my family, Christmas gifts had to be a surprise. It was inappropriate to ask for something specific. Christmas morning was all about the anticipation of what you might be getting. It wasn’t what you necessarily wanted, but it was exciting.

In Mary Ellen’s family, requesting an item made perfect sense. There were no real surprises. Mary Ellen and her brother still exchange gifts. They both ask for Amazon gift cards. The only excitement is seeing who sprang for the most.

To be surprised or not to be surprised is no longer the question. Mary Ellen and I do all our shopping online, and because we share the same Amazon Prime account, we both are always aware of what the other person is buying. When we log on, we see what our significant other has purchased the previous time the website was accessed. Mary Ellen is always quick to share her approval when she sees what I selected.

“Oh, Dick, I just saw that you bought me a Water Sonic Fusion professional flossing toothbrush and water flosser combo. Green. It’s nearly exactly what I asked for!”

“I’m glad, Dear. You seem to know more about the purchase than I do.”

“Yes, it will be delivered between Dec. 17 and 21 and I can return it until Jan. 31, which I probably will because I wanted it in white, not green.”

“Is there anything else you’d like?”

“Yes, I was kind of hoping for the COSORI Air Fryer XL (Oilless Cooker, including an LED touch digital screen, with 11 pre-sets). I went ahead and ordered that, too. Thank you. You are so thoughtful. I can’t wait to open it.”

Mary Ellen had gotten gifts for me, which I also saw on the site…

“OK, Mary Ellen, while we’re at it, thanks for the battery organizer/battery storage case with tester for AA, AAA, AAAA 9V CD lithium 3V (BATTERIES NOT INCLUDED).”

“Well, Dick, thanks for ruining Christmas. I wanted that to be a surprise. I even bought you some batteries to go with it.”

A half-dozen boxes are piled just inside our front door (all from Amazon) and we haven’t got the slightest idea what’s in them. If we open the wrong box in order to wrap the gift, that might ruin the surprise, which, of course, it clearly isn’t a surprise, because we both know what we are getting. We just don’t know what box it’s in.

Christmas was never this confusing before. Next year, if the pandemic is over, I plan to go to locally owned gift shops and maybe I can learn to enjoy the fun of in-person shopping again.

What a nice surprise that would be.