Is it proper to re-gift or should you re-trash?

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As most of us, I have received various gifts my entire life. Some were welcome, but some caused me to question “why?” For example, when I was seven years old my dad came home with a used green bicycle for me complete with training wheels. I looked at this gift with dismay because I knew there was no way that I was even going to attempt to ride it. I knew that learning to ride this bicycle involved falling down and blood. I didn’t do blood and the only time worth falling down was when I was climbing onto the kitchen counter to “borrow” a few cookies that were hidden behind the Crisco can.

Dad then pointed out the training wheels and I gave it a shot. I was surprised that the training wheels helped. I was a bicycle riding enthusiast. I was successful.

I happily rode my bicycle up and down the hay alley until a year later when my brother made a very deadly suggestion. “Why don’t we take off the training wheels?” It sounded like a good idea. John took a wrench and started to work on my bicycle. I should have known better. Six months later, my training wheel free bicycle was still sitting beside the barn with only one wheel of the four remaining. Soon, my bright green Schwinn was a faded method of transportation for the milkers to ride when they herded the cows to the barn.

I do have emotional attachments to many of the gifts that I have been given, such as the bracelet from my grandparents. My father came from a very large family and I have 49 cousins on his side. I totally understood the overwhelming and expensive task that my grandparents took on remembering when each of us celebrated a birthday. The usual gift of a card with a dollar inside brought me much joy, but one year, my grandparents gave me a bracelet with a pink heart. I still have that bracelet. It no longer fits and is broken, but that gift still means the world to me.

But some gifts aroused questions that were never answered. There’s the plaster wall plaque was painted by a dear relative. It was a country home shaded by autumn leaves on a nearby tree, surrounded by a flower garden in full bloom, and brown bunnies romping in the yard covered with snow. I think she was getting Pete back for his refusal to take the tractor that she gifted him when he was five years old. “The wheels don’t turn” was his reason.

Concerning the placement of the wall plaque: we had devised a plan where Pete would answer the door while I would quickly remove a picture from our wall replace it with the “Four-Season Plaster Plaque.”

However, the day that these same relatives walked into our house carrying two three-feet plaster statues of Pinkie and Blue Boy was about all I could take. I had to find places for these “toddler-sized figures.” It wasn’t only the fact that they were large, but they were also dressed inappropriately. It wasn’t the amount of clothing or lack of fashion — it was the color! I could only imagine the reaction of the curators at the Huntington Library if they could see Pinkie and Blue Boy dressed in yellow and green. As I placed the duo on the hearth of our fireplace, I whispered in their ears, “Don’t get too comfortable here.”

We put much thought into where they could reside out of sight but be quickly put into place whenever the brown Buick turned onto our street. I didn’t want them in my closet where they could glare at me every time I entered, nor did I even consider the linen closet where I felt they would be far too comfortable. I contemplated the trunk of our car, but didn’t want them following me everywhere I went.

After much consideration, a permanent place of residency was determined: the garage – beside the freezer, to the left of the lawn mower, under a blanket, held down by a sleeping bag. Three times a year, they would “see the light of day,” only to return to their dark abode just a few hours later.

When I did dispose of them, I considered leaving them on the steps of the library. They both deserved a place of honor for all the abuse I had given them.

“Re-gifting” has always intrigued me. Do people “re-gift” because they don’t want what someone else gave them, or do they re-gift because they think that someone else would appreciate the gift more than they do, like fruitcake.

When we lived in Illinois, we did master the “farm-produce-re-gift.” It seems that when you are a pastor in a country church, they give you bonus pay using their melons and vegetables. Often, we would arrive home and discover a 100-pound sack of potatoes on our porch. Please keep in mind that there was just two of us and 100 pounds went a long way. Then there was the sweet corn — two huge sacks! Add to that, cucumbers, carrots, tomatoes and, the best of all, zucchini. We had zucchini bread, zucchini muffins, zucchini waffles, zucchini soup, and zucchini pizza, just to mention a few. We were newly married and appreciated everything that we received and our neighbors also benefited as we “re-gifted” as much as possible.

But when it came to melons, we were in heaven. We were given watermelon and cantaloupe all summer long. One day, we found 14 watermelons on our porch. We tried to re-gift them to the neighbors but no one would take them so we did the next best thing — we ate them all in one sitting. We sat in the back yard of our home, cut open each melon, scooped out the heart and threw the remaining watermelon, rinds and seeds and all, into the corn field located right behind our garden. We figured we were just recycling!

Three months later, during harvest time, Pastor Pete overheard two farmers talking about how Neil Voss had been combining his field corn and ran into a huge watermelon patch. I don’t think Mr. Voss was too happy, but I’m sure his cattle appreciated “Watermelon flavored silage.”

This past week, I gave into the temptation to “re-gift.” Fifty years ago, my parents were given a celebratory plate for their 25th anniversary. I loved that plate and when, 25 years later, I found it in my parent’s trash, I grabbed it and ran. After all, our 25th anniversary was only a few weeks away. I wouldn’t say that it was re-gifted. It was rescued!

Now 25 years later, I realized that I only used that plate twice and decided to “re-trash it” until I learned that Pastor Dave and Mollee were celebrating their 25th anniversary. I had the perfect rescued re-gift! I could already hear the laughter when they realize that they were given a 50-year-old re-gift. I placed it in a “re-gift-gift-bag.” I never buy gift bags, I just recycle them the ones that I have been gifted. I have some that I have used every Christmas for the past 20 years. This way I don’t have to write names on the gifts. You just look for your bags.

When the time came for Pastor Dave and Mollee to open their “re-gift,” the entire thing backfired. I had imagined that I would hear laughter, but no, they loved it! I’m always disappointed when I give the perfect gag gift and it turns out to be a treasure.

Thus, I am now looking at many of my “treasures” with different emotions. I really need to find a home for my precious potato masher before my kids hold the inevitable “Estate Sale.”

Nieces and nephews, beware! We may arrive soon at your home with a potato masher in my hand. Oh No! We’ve just become “Uncle Watson and Aunt Myrtle!”

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Pat Van Dyke