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I ruined Christmas — again

Ok, not really.
Well, kinda.

Ok. A little background first.

I’m not a big fan of Christmas. It’s the most stressful holiday imaginable. Not only do you have crowds, and traffic, and shopping and spending ridiculous amounts of money, you encounter the dual stress inducers of
A. Trying to buy a gift for someone that you don’t really know.
B. Receiving that horrible or unwanted gift.

When I was a youngster, I had my very first anxiety attack after seeing one of my male cousins get a pair of Jordache jeans from one of my aunts. For 20 minutes I sat there sweating, worrying about how I was going to fake it when my turn came to open my gifts. Imagine my relief when I opened my gift box and saw that beautiful pair of Wranglers staring back at me. I’m sure my over-exuberant ‘thank you’ must have caused some strange glances from everyone in the room.

“Boy, that weird kid really likes his Wrangler jeans, doesn’t he?”

The other side of that equation is having to wander around shopping malls picking out a gift for someone, knowing full well that they probably don’t need or want whatever you wind up choosing.

“Oooooh, what a beautiful sweater.”
“Another tie. How thoughtful.”

Through my teenage years, I could just enlist one of my father’s sisters to do the dirty work, since they loved shopping, but by the time my 20’s rolled around, I was cut off and cast to the wolves.

That often left me, my brother, and my old man wandering in the desert of Christmas Eve, picking out last minute gifts, and hoping that we didn’t forget anyone. This became a big tradition for us, and we usually had a lot of fun with it, until the old man sold us out and got his girlfriend to do his dirty work.

From that point on, I tried a different attack on my own personal Christmas hell. I was able to convince the rest of the family that buying gifts was so wasteful and unpractical, that we really should be doing something else. They went along for a few years; one year we went to the General Post Office and picked up a dozen or so letters for needy children, and another year we just collected a bunch of money and sent it to different charities — once it was Smile-train, and another was to Paul Newman’s Camp for Kids with Cancer. Everyone loved the idea, and really felt the Christmas spirit because of it. Little did they know that the whole idea was designed to relieve my Christmas anxiety.

Yeah. I’m not kidding about that part.

Eventually, they vetoed my decision and went back to gift-buying, although now it was usually with a theme or a monetary limit. I went along for the ride, but I wasn’t above volunteering for overtime when the need arose.

That all changed when I met the love of my life.
Unlike me, she loves Christmas. She loves the food, the baking, the shopping, the decorating, the smell of the real tree; every friggin thing. Her parents loved Christmas and instilled that love inside her. Keeping up those traditions are her way to stay connected to them.
Ok. Cool. I get it.
So when we first started dating, I was determined to change my attitude and try to be filled with the holiday spirit just to make her happy.
And for a moment, it actually worked. I no longer viewed Christmas as Stress-mas.

That year, I was determined to buy a useful and practical gift that she would love, and be happy with, and see how determined I was to make her happy.

After weeks of contemplation, along with some input from her teenaged house-guests, I decided to purchase the latest Ipad. — The IPAD 7XRQ with the Turbo-charger and the hood scoop –
This thing was mint. She was gonna love it. Apple sent it right away, and I got it in the early part of December.
I was so excited; I decided to give it to her early.

She loved it.
She absolutely loved it.

I was so proud of my decision, and I was so happy to see how ecstatic she was. I had finally conquered my Christmas demons. Even the boys approved. Everything was moving in the right direction…

About a week before Christmas, I was sitting with the boys in what was then “their house”, when one of them asked me what I was getting mom for Christmas.

“Wattayamean? I got her the Ipad.”

The matching look on their faces told me that I have screwed up.

“Dude, you can’t not give her anything. There’s gotta be something under the tree on Christmas morning.”

What the hell did I know? I’m new at this.

I don’t remember exactly what it was that I got, but the look on her face was the same one that I had spent my entire life trying to avoid.
“Oh look, what a lovely sweater-vest”

It was our first Christmas, and I ruined it.

This year I was determined to make up for my past transgression. I was going to get a smart, practical gift that she would appreciate, and I was going to give it to her on Christmas morning, along with the obligatory socks and Isotoner gloves.

For months she’s been complaining about her cell phone, and I was due for an upgrade as well, so I hunted down the perfect phone for the both of us.
The Samsung J7 with the Flux Capacitator and the Spoiler on the back.
No, not the one that explodes.
She was going to love it. It was thin and sleek and had just enough bells and whistles, but it didn’t cost an arm and a leg. It was perfect.

I went to the store on 3rd Ave, but they were out of that particular phone so I went to the one on 13th ave, and low and behold, they had two in stock. Awesome.

I told the girl of my intention to buy the two phones and then bring them back after Christmas to be activated.

“Sorry, you can’t do that.”
“Why not?”
“You have to activate them now.”
“But I don’t want to activate them now.”
“I’m sorry.”
“If I activate it now, then her phone isn’t going to work, and I’ll have to give it to her two weeks early and then buy her a pink sweater, and I’m going to ruin Christmas again.”

She tilted her head like a beagle that hears a high-pitched noise that we can’t hear.

“How bout if I put a deposit down, and then pick up the phones on the 24th.”
“I can’t do that.”
“How bout if I purchase the phones, but you keep the card, so they don’t work?”
“Sorry, I can’t do that.”

I told her how ridiculous it was and that I wanted it for a Christmas present and she said —
Wait for it… This is not a joke…
“Just take a picture of it, and give that to her.”
I kid you not.

I went home dejected and shared my tale of woe with my teenaged roommates –
One just grunted and shrugged his shoulders.
The other laughed and told me I was fucked.
He was right.

But I was determined not to ruin Christmas, so I came up with a brilliant plan.

I called the store every day and asked if they had the two phones in stock. When she said yes, I hung up and called back the next day. Finally, on the day before Christmas Eve, I went to the store at 3pm, while Valarie was out picking up the supplies for the Feast of the Seven Fishes. My plan was to buy the phones, have them cut over, and then hold onto the phone until Christmas Eve.

Good plan right? We were going to the city to do some shopping that night, so she probably wouldn’t even notice that the phone was shut off.

What could go wrong?

I made the girl switch my phone first. Smart right? That way, I always had a working phone. Plus I had told the boys about my plan, so they were instructed to call me in case of any type emergency. Everything was aces.

She switched over Val’s new phone, I paid the bill and I was out the door and on my way home. It was at that point that I realized the fatal flaw in my plan. I couldn’t let Val see my phone, otherwise she would know something was up.

No biggie, I would just pretend that I left my phone at home. We’d go shopping, she wouldn’t get any calls, and no one would be the wiser.

As I drove down the block, my phone buzzed. My new phone. I looked at the number. It was the house phone.

It was Valarie. Frantic.

“My phone doesn’t work. Something is wrong with it. I was in the middle of sending a text and it just died.”

I was screwed.

When I got inside the house, she was seething. She was ready to march up to Metro PCS and smash someone with the phone. I had no choice.

I gave her the phone. A day early.

Her smile was electric. She beamed from ear to ear.

Then she took it out of the box.

That phone that looked so thin and sleek in my meaty hands…
Looked like a school dictionary it hers.
It was gi-normous.

She was caught off-guard by the moment, and then the stresses of Christmas took its toll.

“It’s too big for my hand.”
“It won’t fit in my purse.”
“It won’t fit in my bra.”
“Where are all my contacts?”
“Where are all my pictures?”

I was ready to race back to the store to exchange the phone, but she assured me that it was fine, that I had bought a wonderful gift and that I was a wonderful husband.

“Just make sure my pictures aren’t lost.”

We went back and I made the girl transfer all the contacts and pictures. Valarie appeared happy, but deep down, in the recesses of my soul, I could hear her saying —
“Man, these are awesome sweat socks.”

When she made a call, it looked like she was holding an Ipad against her head.

I had ruined Christmas.

I told her the story about the girl saying to take a picture and giving that to her.

“That would have been a good idea.” She replied.

We went to the Christmas Village in Union Square to finish up the shopping, but it was a disaster.

Tourists with backpacks were bumping into her left and right.

Every third booth was occupied by a bearded transplant trying to capitalize on the Brooklyn mystique.

Brooklyn Art Works
Brooklyn Cookies
Brooklyn Books
Brooklyn Everything

We hated it, but the transplants ate it up.

We headed home; dejected and defeated.

I went home and laid on the couch, covered in my own failure. I pulled the blanket up to my chin. The cat took a seat on my chest.

As I fell into slumber, I felt her approach me.
I opened one eye as she kissed me on the forehead.
“You didn’t ruin Christmas. I love my phone.”

She kissed me again, reassuring me. My failure relieved. But as she walked away, she muttered,
“Next time, get one that’s smaller than a phone book.”

I hope she likes the socks.

Next year, Christmas is cancelled.
We’re going to Bermuda.

Merry Christmas everyone.