When I lived with my sister and her family last year, doing fun stuff for my niece and nephew (aka the “roommates”) on holidays was a piece of cake. Now it requires a little more thought and planning. I’m good at the first but less competent at the second.
While driving to my sister’s house for bus duty last week, which I do every other Thursday, I realized I would miss Valentine’s Day with the kids this year. If I wanted to do something fun for them in person, I had to act fast.
I stopped at the grocery store (as I do always do to pick up the ritual Skinny Cow ice cream treats and pizza fixins) and decided to look for inspiration there, even though I knew it was an unlikely source.
The seasonal aisle, packed floor to ceiling with red boxes of chocolatey, sugary goodness, was a dentist’s dream and a parent’s nightmare. While I believe it’s my job as an aunt to educate the kids in the classics, my sister might not have forgiven me if I’d picked this year to introduce them to the wonder of the Whitman’s Sampler.
My eyes continued to scan the shelves for something that wouldn’t require a Ritalin antidote and landed on these.
The stuffed animals met my lofty standards– “within arm’s reach and under $10”– so I grabbed them and drove to the bus stop.
I set the dog in the front seat, where my ten year-old niece sits, and the bear in the back for my eight year-old nephew. I could hardly wait for my roommates to find their Valentine’s Day surprises, so much so that I told them some goodies awaited as we walked the short distance from the bus stop to my car.
They were surprised, all right.
“You got us these last year,” Timothy said.
I smacked my forehead, finding no solace in the fact that my taste in Valentine’s Day gifts was at least consistent.
Emily tried to make me feel better. “It’s okay, Wheatie Bo, Timothy and I can trade.” I was starting to perk up until she added, “Besides, Mommy made us pack up the ones from last year anyway.”
Apparently consistency does not guarantee quality when it comes to gift taste.
Emily’s comment struck a blow to my pride but I recovered the instant I realized the stuffed animals could still be put to good use.
“Guys, I have an idea,” I said. They were all eyes and ears. “Let’s give ‘em to Mommy and Daddy.” The kids thought this was a grand plan. As soon as we got home, we displayed the gifts on the kitchen counter, where they would be seen as soon as Lynne walked through the door. And then we waited in eager anticipation of my sister’s reaction to our double dog re-gift.
Lynne showed up just after five. The look on her face as she laid eyes on the stuffed animals was priceless, as was her awkward, “Oh…wow… That was really nice of you, Wheatie Bo.”
Timothy cracked right away. “No it wasn’t, Mom. She gave ‘em to us first, but we already had ‘em.” Clearly the kid still has a thing or two to learn about proper execution of a practical joke.
But I know he’s in very good hands, because my sister responded without missing a beat, “Let’s wrap ‘em up and give ‘em to Nano and Granddad.”
My sister and I are two fruits who didn’t fall far from the family tree. If I know my parents, before the week is out these five dollar tchotchkes will have made it all the way to my brother in Atlanta.