On Gift Giving

December 26, 2012 at 12:58 PM | Posted in I'm related to these people., Salt of the Earth | Leave a comment

Christmas meant a couple of trips to the dump for my dad.  No, not after the holiday to haul away all the mauled gift wrappings (we were good little re-users and saved paper and ribbons).   Dad went on his voyages of dump discovery long before the holiday season.  See, the dump was a good place to find presents!  Now, this is not “Oliver Twist in Dillingham.”  This is yet another story of how cool my parents were and are.  Dump presents were awesome.  Note: I grew up and went to college.  I’ve been employed for my entire adult life.  No extra organs or appendages have sprouted from my person.  I refuse to buy cheap cheese and I use organic produce.  I have a full set of teeth and health insurance.  Dump presents did not harm me nor turn me into one of the Clampetts.

First, let me explain the dump.  This was in rural Alaska, circa 1980s.  A small community without anything like a rendering plant or nuclear facility.  People mostly threw away cans, rain gear from the summer seasonal workers at the cannery, and things that they couldn’t fix.  This was a gold mine to my dad who, like that guy I married, can fix anything.  And everything.  Doll carriage with a teeny broken axle?  Miniature kitchen dishes with missing wire handles?  All it took was wire, glue, and maybe some hardware and the toys were back in the game.  Of course, they also got a bit of scrubbing from my mother.  She’s a nurse, you know.  Nurses know how to clean stuff.   If my mom were ever going to get a tattoo to go with her recent piercing, it would probably be of the Lysol logo or perhaps a heart encircling “C.B.” for Clorox Bleach.

I remember knowing that the gifts came from the dump.  I thought it was so cool.  No one had the stuff I did (although I suppose they had previously).  And even as a kid, I realized that putting work into a gift added to its value.  Note: I was not a saintly Polyanna-type child exempt from all materialism.  I was quite gleeful the years I received a My Friend Becky doll and a Cabbage Patch Kid (both new in their boxes).  And there was that time I buttered the wheels of my brother’s toy three-wheeler so that it left tracks in the carpet.  That was not saintly.  But it wasn’t like I expected everything to be new all the time.  In fact, I liked the retro and custom nature of my parent’s salvaged gifts.  By the way, they always made sure we had a few new things since coloring books, for example, would be a pretty lame used gift.  Like I said, this isn’t a Dicken’s tale of woe and walking to school barefoot in the snow with wolves and lions and rabid things chasing me.

My appreciation of dump alternative gift-giving is why I was a little horrified when my husband mentioned that his family asks in a slightly worried tone what to BUY for me.  You know, at the STORE.  His family are some of the warmest people you’ll ever meet, so while I’m honored by their wish to buy me something I’ll like, I want them to know that I consider the Salvation Army a terrific place to find gifts for me.  I want them to spend as little money as possible.  Bonus if the thing is avocado green.  After all, the landfills here have giant, crushing bulldozers running all the time.  And I wouldn’t ask people in general to make dump discovery a part of a gift to me.  But I’m glad my parents did it.

We do things a little differently now.  My parents continue finding gifts in places that are not stores, but, much to my dad’s heartbreak, the City of Dillingham updated the dump.  “Ruined it,” according to him.  So, now they find stuff at garage sales, the end-of-summer cannery sales where surplus supplies for fishing industry support can be had for a whistle, and at homes of people who are getting rid of stuff.  And my mom has become a talented navigator of the outlet section of coldwatercreek.com.  I got three new scarves and two new brooches this year, courtesy of the Internet.  But I also got a rack made partially of salvaged wood from Dillingham’s old water tower and vintage wooden candle rings from the recent de-cluttering of Mom’s best friend’s house.

This Christmas, the Guy Who Can Fix Everything gave me a wooden bird that his grandfather carved before passing away.  Just one more way I know that I married the right guy.  He totally understands what I consider a really valuable gift.  And he included a bar of really nice hazelnut-gooshy chocolate (brand-new, of course).  I married the right guy.

Christmas Bird 2012

I hope all of you received gifts that you can treasure this year.  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


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