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  • Kristan Higgins

That special holiday hell

Updated: May 3, 2022


As you may know from past posts, I’m not a great giver of gifts, especially at Christmas. There was that dog toy shaped like a remote control. I didn’t know it was a dog toy until Dearest Son bit it and it squeaked. One year, when she was about four, the Princess asked for “a brown-skinned moving dolly that’s not a robot and doesn’t have batteries.” She was rightfully afraid of those dolls that talk and walk like li’l Frankensteins, but she nevertheless wanted it to move. She told this to Mall Santa, who cut me a look. “I’ll get right on that,” he told her. Good luck, he mouthed to me. Let’s just say that between Santa and me, it took us about 4,793 hours to find Lily, who still resides in Princess’s room. In fact, let’s consider that Princess’s present for all future Christmases, birthdays and graduations forevermore.


I tend to panic and wander while Christmas shopping. I dislike shopping in malls with crowds, but inevitably, because I procrastinate with the best of them, I find myself hypeventilating in line at Hot Topic or Urban Outfitters, buying Dearest his 14th ironic cat t-shirt. I can spend six hours at the mall and end up with one cat t-shirt and one bizarre cooking tool from Williams Sonoma that I hope someone—anyone—will want.

McIrish is incredibly hard to buy for. He tends to shop for himself, which clearly puts him on the Naughty list (and not in the fun way). I chalk this up to his childhood, which was spent in a Dickensian orphanage. Oh, wait, he was raised in the bosom of his family! Either way, he is GREAT at getting himself presents. He doesn’t even pretend. Last year, we were in the New York Public Library gift shop, and he came over and just handed me a stack of books and a calendar. “I would love these for Christmas,” he said merrily.


“You’re getting coal!” I snapped. “Put those down!” (Note: I had the same damn books and the same damn calendar in my arms to buy for him, if he’d give me five damn minutes, for heaven’s sake. We’ve been married for 24 years! I know what he likes!) He wandered off and bought himself a sweater. “You can still wrap it and give it to me for Christmas,” he said, all innocent-like. I snarled and tore the sweater to shreds (in my mind, anyway…in reality, it was under the tree on Christmas morning).

And then there’s my mother. “Don’t get me anything,” she threatens, narrowing her eyes and making her scary face. “I don’t want anything. I mean it. Nothing for the house. No jewelry. No clothes.”

I obey and give a donation to Heifer International in her name. I enjoy telling her there’s a goat named after her, wandering the Andes, providing milk and cheese for a family. And then comes the great betrayal. My sister-in-law does not obey the no-gift edict and presents my mother with a basket full of goodies. Lovely dish towels and earrings and photos and books about Mariano Rivera. And then what does my mother do!?! She comes home and says, “Look at all the lovely presents Jackie gave me! Aren’t these fantastic?” And it’s a knife in the heart, people! It is!


Well. I got that out of my system. Thanks for listening. I’m off to the mall. Pray for me.


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