Dilemmas In Gift Giving

By Janet Kuypers

After a childhood of Christmases
in the Chicago cold and snow,
my construction company father
started a retirement community
in southwest Naples Florida.

After that, for every Christmas
me and sister Sandy, who was
ten years older than me, would fly
from O’hare to Fort Myers
to have two weeks of fun in the sun.
So in my teens, I got used to
warm temperatures for carolers
and no snow for the yuletide season.

And even though not all five
of us kids were there, I was still
the youngest, so on Christmas eve,
when exchanging gifts, I was the one
in charge of handing out presents
from under the tree for people to open.

Now, I have to preface this all
with the fact that I came from
a prudish family; we were
mild-mannered moral people.
I didn’t even drink ‘til I was
away at college. I didn’t even
kiss a boy ‘til I was sixteen.

So once on one Christmas eve,
I think I was fourteen,
after the carolers had come
we all sat near the tree, adorned
with sand dollars and red ribbons,
and I started handing out presents
for everyone to open.

But at one point I handed a red box
to my sister, as a gift
that my mother obviously bought.
She opened the box to see
a very adult set
of a bra and panties.

Now, my sister was twenty-four,
but this was a very forward
gift from my mother.
As I looked to the tree,
I must have had a panicked
look on my face, because
my parents then asked me
what the matter was.

Well, at this point in time
I had never kissed a boy,
I don’t even know if I
was wearing a training bra,
so I said, well, I’m handing
out these presents, and
there’s another box
just like the one she opened
there for me too.
So they told me to open it,
I had to do my best
to not look mortified,
but at least the teddy
my mom chose for me
was very reserved.

You know,
as far as teddies go.


A few years later,
I think I was leaving
for college the next fall,
but at present time
on Christmas eve,
I see a present
addressed to both
me and my sister.
So we opened the gift.
I had no idea what it was,
but the box said, “Epilady.”

Mom said it was
something you could use
so you wouldn’t have to
shave your legs.
We opened it up —
the tip looked like
a twisted tiny metal coil,
and mom suggested we try it.

So apparently when
it’s plugged in,
those coils vibrate
and act like mass tweezers,
because when I put
that thing to my leg,
it started yanking out,
en masse, all the hair
it could come near.

I instantly screamed.
And as I said,
I didn’t drink,
but I said, “do they give
a bottle of bourbon
with these? ‘Cause
you’d have to be drunk
to numb the pain…”
I didn’t question
sharing a hair removal
device with my sister
(though really, eiw…),
but I thought,
I’m leaving for college
soon, so I said
to my sister,
you can keep this gift
for yourself.


Years later,
after living on my own
and getting used to
those cold Chicago
winters again,
I was driving
to by parent’s
Chicago home,
and while stopped
at an intersection
I was struck
by two cars
and almost died.

After I started to
recover, that
seemed to be
a good occasion
to get the kids
together again
for Christmas.

And after all
these years
we learned
our lesson,
went to a photo
studio and took
pictures of us girls
as a gift for
our parents.
Maybe it took
the possibility
of part of the family
falling apart
for us to remember
what these presents
are really for.
Because I didn’t
keep the teddy,
and I’m sure
my sister
didn’t revere
the S&M hair
removal device,
but those photos,
I think they
will last
a lifetime.

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