Whenever our friends or relatives come to visit, Spouser and I whip out “the list” and dash around the house planting the gifts they’ve given us over the years.
It’s not that we’re ungrateful. It’s just that gifts like a Styrofoam pot filled with brightly-colored orange and purple plastic flowers and a drab painting of a graveyard don’t really go with our decor.
“Isn’t that the birdhouse I gave you last Christmas?” my friend Liz asks, staring across the yard. “Indeed it is,” I say, praying it doesn’t crash to the ground before she backs her Pontiac out of the driveway.
Squinting, she leans forward only to shrink back in horror.
“You painted over the half-moon!” she cries, glaring at me like I’ve drawn a smiley face on the Mona Lisa.
“It’s the neighborhood building restrictions,” I say soberly. “We’re not allowed to hang outhouses in the trees.”
One friend’s treasure is another friend’s, well, lavatory.
“It’s your own fault,” my little sister April says on the phone. “It must be your love for bathroom humor. Maybe it’s time for a new theme.”
I’ll give this some thought, I assure her. April’s theme is her beautiful KIDS. With eight of them, every which way you turn, there’s a kid, or two.
Much to my aunt Betty’s chagrin, somewhere along the line our family and friends looked at Spouser and me, then looked at each other and declared, “Toilets!” That’s seems to be the way it has gone all these years. Safely stored in our attic is every bathroom-related gift known to man.
We have stacks of books filled with bathroom humor, salt and pepper shakers shaped like Porta Potties, and rolls of gag toilet paper made out of straw, you name it. Someone actually gave us a little bank shaped like a commode. You throw a coin in the bowl, pull the handle and it goes WHOOSH! I don’t know what disturbs me most — the time, money and brainpower our relatives have flushed down the toilet, or the fact that people who have known us all our lives think our ideal gift is a commode plunger with a bottle opener on the handle.
But, come to think of it, everyone in our family does have a theme: Daughter Mindy collects frogs; anything to do with frogs will do. I collect handmade puppets, mostly made from Spouser’s old tube socks. And Spouser collects VHS tapes of old cricket matches. Don’t get near those tapes with a 10-foot pole, or Spouser’ll snap at you like a dog protecting a bone.
“The solution, of course, is to come up with a NEW theme,” April says again.
“How about refrigerator magnets?” I say.
Shouting at her boys to stop playing tackle football in the flower garden, April gives this some thought. “Readily available, easily stored and can be thrown up in a flash whenever relatives drop by uninvited,” she says. “I like it.”
“So, what is your theme?” I ask, screwing on the lid to my new toilet-shaped hummingbird feeder.
“Cash,” she says, pausing to shout at her girls to quit using whipping cream for mousse on Barbie’s hair. “But a check or money order will do.”
Maybe she’s got something there.