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Kirby: It’s the thought that counts — if you include a receipt

By Robert Kirby

| Tribune Columnist

First Published Dec 31 2013 01:01 am • Last Updated Dec 31 2013 07:25 am

Last week, we bought a wedding gift for the daughter of some friends. Taibree got married four days before Christmas, which has to be the worst time of the year when it comes to buying wedding gifts.

In addition to Christmas being a time when the gift budget for most people has already been squandered, you’re giving gifts to so many people that it’s possible to make a mistake.

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Note: What nearly happened was my fault. I wasn’t in the proper mood to celebrate the Lord’s birthday OR a mortal wedding.

After shopping for days, the mood I wanted to be in was "severely intoxicated." Instead, I was in a "completely sober" mood and wrapping an endless line of presents.

Thanks to me, Taibree almost got a Hot Wheels track and cars for her wedding. That would have been difficult. Harder to explain would have been why Santa saw fit to bring our 6-year-old grandson a crockpot.

Fortunately for both of them, my wife has learned to keep receipts. Wedding, Christmas, birthday — there’s always a chance that you got or gave the wrong thing. If not entirely the wrong thing, then at least not exactly what was needed. You have to plan a way out.

In church after Christmas, Taibree’s mother cautiously inquired if I still had the receipt for our wedding gift?

Because I hadn’t yet received what I specifically requested for Christmas, my immediate response was to ask whether Taibree had by chance gotten a large wooden crate labeled "military surplus" for her wedding?

Taibree’s mom: "No, but she got eight crockpots and she really needs a vacuum cleaner."

Me: "Yeah, I have the receipt."

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Then Taibree’s mom asked some truly ridiculous questions. Was I alright with her asking for the receipt? Did I think it was crass? Could she exchange it? Had she hurt my feelings?

Answers: Yes. No. Yes. Do I look like I have two X chromosomes?

It would have been better if my wife had simply let me tape the receipt to the wedding gift before I wrapped it. That would have been easier for all concerned including the store where we bought it.

In the early days of our own marriage, people followed the lamentable social custom of removing anything that remotely hinted at the cost of a gift, or even where it was purchased. Nobody ever asked for the receipt to something useless such as an umbrella stand or a pair of wool clippers.

If you got something back then that you didn’t need (or actually even hated), you had to keep it. It’s why I still have wedding reception salad bowls and candy dishes in our garage that contain spark plugs and nails.

My wife hasn’t gotten to the insensitive point of including the receipt with the gifts, but we’ve learned to keep them. There’s an entire haystack of them on our kitchen counter.

Good thing, too. Some of the clothes we bought our older granddaughters for Christmas are too small and at least one of the billion-piece Lego sets we bought (the human genome) is a set our grandson already has.

Some people will say that when it comes to gifts, it’s the thought that counts. Maybe. But an even better thought is, "Here’s the receipt. Get what you really needed."


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