The Coffee Maker or The Nose Ring
My three sisters, brother and I are a pretty close-knit bunch, despite being scattered across the country. Growing up, you might not have realized that as we tortured, teased and argued with each other incessantly…much to our mother’s disapproval. However, when it came down to a battle between “them” and “us”…we had each other’s backs. Nobody was allowed to beat a sibling up except for another sibling…familial privilege and all that.
We weren’t always going for each other’s jugular like a pack of wild wolverine cubs. In fact, at Christmas time we all got rather gooey and sentimental over one another thanks to my mother and one of her favorite traditions. A week or two before Christmas, she would herd all of us into the family car, slap a twenty into each of our grubby hands and send us careening wildly through the local department store to purchase gifts for every member of the family. It was a lot of fun. Not only did you have to find the perfect gift for each parent and four siblings for a price not to exceed twenty dollars, but you had to avoid the stealthy snooping of your brother and sisters as you crept down each aisle to make sure the coast was clear before snatching up the potential gift. This made our visits rather interesting for the store employees and detectives intent on nabbing a shoplifter. Our behavior, while totally innocent, did appear rather suspicious.
As you can probably figure out, the gifts were cheap and occasionally tawdry. But I can still remember the thrill it gave me to sweat over finding just the right thing and the childlike joy at having found it. At home, we’d each wrap our secret treasures away from prying eyes and place them carefully under the family tree to await opening on Christmas Eve. The real presents never showed up until Christmas morning, but the night before was dedicated to the giving and receiving of these family gifts.
We are all adults now…and I miss the magic of Christmas Eve spent in the company of my brother and sisters, watching with bated breath as they opened up the gifts I had bought for them. The five of us tried for years to uphold the family tradition, but as we wandered off into our separate lives it became more difficult…not to mention more expensive.
Then one of us had a great idea. Why don’t we buy a gift for just one of the others…and rotate it every year? We all agreed to a simple system…which only one of us ever remembers. The first year, going in age order, Rick had Michele, Michele had me, I had Ronda, Ronda had Toni and Toni had Rick. Sounds pretty easy right? Well…the next year, Rick had me, Michele had Ronda, I had Toni, Ronda had Rick and Toni had Michele. We’ve been doing this for so long that not only has the original dollar limit been forgotten, but who has who is a total confusion. Luckily, it only takes a phone call to Ronda…the most materialistic member of the sibling pack, to remind us of the pecking order. She never forgets…ever.
So this year I have my sister, Michele. On a scale of one to ten, with one being the most difficult to buy for and ten being the easiest, Michele is an eight for me. I will usually ask her for several hints on what she would like and then I have complete freedom to decide anything else. Rick is a one. I always cringe when I know it’s my turn to buy a gift for him since it means he will give me the exact item and where it can be ordered on the web. He also has very expensive taste. One year he wanted a pool float for his pool, a very specific float that cost nearly a hundred dollars when all was said and done. I never complained…I just bought it and shipped it and thanked heaven that I only have his name 20% of the time. Ronda is a seven. Like my brother, she will give you an exact list of what she wants. Unlike my brother, the exact list is for toys for her children. She refuses to accept any gift for herself. This makes her a pain in the ass, because then I have to buy something for her AND her children in order to satisfy my own conscience. Toni is a complete ten. All I have to think is what would I love to have and then go out and buy it for her. Unfortunately, I can’t have her name every year.
Gift receiving is another issue altogether. Everyone loves to be the recipient of my brother’s gift giving because he spends way too much. One year Toni received a 20” computer monitor and a couple of years later I received a high powered lens attachment for my camera. I guess that’s why we don’t complain about things like ridiculously expensive pool floats when they are requested. Michele, however, once gifted me with a basket of goodies and one of the items was a bag of penis shaped pasta. I told my seven year old stepdaughter they were rockets and promised to make them for the Fourth of July pasta salad…which I never did. It’s amazing what a child will forget in almost seven months.
The Christmas Present Candidates...
A week or so ago, I asked Michele what she would like for Christmas this year and was given two choices. Her first choice was a contribution toward a Keurig coffee-maker. She fell in love with the one at Toni’s house while we were gathered there this summer. In doing research, I discovered that the basic model started at just under a hundred dollars and the one my sister has is closer to a hundred and fifty. This causes a dilemma for me. Since I don’t remember the agreed upon amount, how much exactly is a “contribution?” It’s just easier to suck it up and buy her one…and then she’ll love me forever and won’t ever send me dick-shaped noodles again.
Her second choice is a nose ring.
Michele hates the idea of growing older. In an effort to prove that she is not past her prime she has gone bungee-jumping and thrown her back out of whack, has gotten a tattoo and has had her belly button pierced. So at fifty years of age, my siblings and I were not too surprised to get a picture of her via our cell phones of her newly acquired pierced nostril.
I know nothing about nostril jewelry. Realizing that time is growing short and that Christmas is just around the corner, I set to work researching my options in this area should I decide not to buy the coffee maker. To my consternation, I did not realize how complex this choice was until I was confronted with an astounding variety of hardware for the proboscis. There were straight ones called “bones” that had a round ball at one end that supposedly held the stud in place after you jammed it through the pierced hole. Then there were the oddly curled ones that you had to screw into position by threading it through the piercing.
With one hand placed protectively over my undecorated nostril, I continued reading. Picking the proper metal was important. Surgical steel or gold was recommended over sterling silver, which could cause permanent discoloration of the skin. There were hoops and dangles, stones big and small…and ones that truly made personal statements like the marijuana leaf and the one which simply said, “fuck you.” As daring as my sister is, I doubted the latter one would be attractive to her…
The coffee maker was looking better and better all the time.
With Christmas on my mind, I stopped by the local Walgreen’s and picked up this year’s Christmas cards and a few other items, standing dutifully in line to await my turn with the cashier. She was a frightening exhibit…a definite candidate for one of those daytime show makeovers. Her lips were traced in a dark lip liner without lipstick and her eyebrows appeared to have been drawn on…and not too well at that. In her right eyebrow were three studs and…
“May I ask you a question?” I said politely to the frightening apparition. She gave me a snarly defensive look and waited.
“You have a nose piercing…” I began, which only seemed to provoke an even more hostile reaction, if possible. I could definitely see her wearing that piece of jewelry with the command to have carnal knowledge with myself.
“My sister…uh…she recently had her nose pierced and she asked for a nose ring for Christmas. But I’m confused. Which is better…the bone (I was so proud of myself for using the accepted terminology) or the u-shaped one?”
The sullen look vanished from the clerk’s face as she gave me her advice on which one was better. It seems the bone has a tendency to slip out while the screwed in piece is more likely to stay put. Knowing that Michele can sneeze pretty violently and is allergic to her own cat, I figured the u-shaped one will probably be the best choice. I’m thinking the blue topaz will compliment her beautiful blue eyes…but I still can’t bring myself to actually buy one yet. My own nostril pains me just thinking about it.
On the bright side…at least she didn’t pierce her tongue…yet.