Gifting, You Know the Drill by Jane Suter aka Plain JaneMy husband has always been frugal. Like, instead of buying himself something he needs, he will wait for months until it’s his birthday or Christmas rolls around, then he asks for it as a gift. He just can’t bear making a big purchase unless it’s justified by a holiday. Some people are made this way, I guess. I am fairly certain, on the day he was born, the doctor smacked his bottom and declared, “Congratulations, it’s a businessman!” Yes, that’s my husband. Unfortunately, his innately prudent ways have totally wrecked the holidays for me.

It all started the first year of our marriage. While driving to my mom’s house for Thanksgiving, I asked him a seemingly simple question. “So, what would you like for Christmas?” In my head, his answer would be a list highlighted with the classics: gloves, golf balls, maybe a shirt and a tie. This is what normal men ask for. But not my spouse. Instead he said: “I don’t know; I really don’t need anything.”

Ugh. After an hour or so he piped up with, “How about a charger for the lawnmower.” Now, seriously, who asks for such a thing? Also, where would I even buy this device? So, the interrogation began, “Do you know the model number? Is there a brand name you prefer? Who sells this charger thingy?”

To be honest, his choice sucked the magical life out of my jingle bells. You see, I had this romantic image of our first Christmas together: We would be snuggled up on the couch, sipping mulled cider, the roaring yule log on TV providing the ideal atmosphere. He would hand me the perfect gift and I would hand him his. Then we would spend the day basking in our perfection. Instead, I ended up dragging this giant cube over to him, and he spent the rest of the afternoon reading the directions and hooking it up to the lawn mower.

It only got worse.

Year two of our married life he wanted a gross of white tube socks for Christmas, some underwear, and a leaf blower. Then, after our boys were born, it was the great blizzard of white undershirts and a full set of drill bits. To make it more fun, I individually wrapped each bit. He smiled warmly as each gift revealed a new size, “Ah, ¾ inch. Thanks honey.” OK, so that didn’t go over as well as I thought it would, but I ask you: how can he be happy to receive these ridiculous things?

One year the man said he wanted a chainsaw. Yeah, a freakin’ chainsaw! But, I found one. You should have seen the store clerk’s face when I asked him about free gift wrapping. Which brings me to last year, when my husband asked for an axe. Who does he think he is, Paul Bunyan? And let me tell you something about wrapping up an axe: when you are done, it still looks like an axe. Tires for his van are on this year’s list. There are many obvious problems with this selection, the least of which is wrapping them. Have you ever smelled a new tire? Nuff said.

I recently decided to get to the bottom of this madness, but I had to do it gently. “Honey, are you trying to make me crazy?” I started. Oops, that came out wrong. Oh well, conversation begun, we continued. He spent the next few minutes explaining how much he loves me and the boys, how presents aren’t at all important to him, and that, in his mind, every moment he gets to spend with us is like Christmas day to him. Then he gave me a kiss and went back to work, big briefcase in hand, tie around his neck, just as practical as always.

I love that man. I also love Christmas again, maybe more than ever. I’ll buy him those tires and roll them across our white carpet. My house will smell like Pep Boys, and I will breathe it in, happily. Next year, when he puts in his ludicrous request, I will hug him extra hard and smooch him a little longer. Then I’ll thank him for making every day a perfect gift.

Jane Suter is one funny mom. To share some of your own parenting experiences with Jane, write to her at Illustration by Colleen Johnson.