Gaudy Pen

This is a long story, so be warned.

I always have a weird feeling whenever I get something from my grandmother.  It is a mixture, I think, of dread and annoyance.  Why? Because my grandmother has not been known for getting good gifts.  I got awkward clothes as a kid.  Clothes that I never wore, except maybe once to appease my parents that I put forth the effort.  If it is not the gift itself, it is the way I receive the gift.  I once unwrapped a present, opened the box under the paper, and found a single check resting on the tissue paper inside.  It was awkward.  If I do not receive a gift from my grandmother, it is because she has promised something unique or special that I know she will never follow through with.

And then there are the gifts that have meaning and leave me wondering why she would part with something that obviously means so much to her.  Yes, I am aware that she will not be around forever, but I figure that she would like to enjoy these items for a while longer.  One such gift was an angel ornament that she bought when I was very small.  My grandmother loves angels and thought this particular ornament bore a strong resemblance to me.  She gave the ornament to me a few years ago.  When I was about eight or nine, she took me to have several portraits taken.  I was wearing a beautiful pink dress and the pictures turned out lovely.  I got several of them around the same time I got that ornament.  She still has her favorite portrait, but I have the rest.  I felt very awkward accepting such gifts.

When Dad was out grocery shopping a couple months ago, he found one of the digital picture frames on sale and decided it would be a great gift for his mom.  Mom and I raised our eyebrows when he brought it home.  Let me explain.  Dad’s heart was in the right place, but Grandma is not very technology savvy.  And she uses her lack of expertise involving any type of technology to manipulate family members and friends.  She has had odd issues with just about everything:  her computer, her cell phone, the remote control for her TV, her digital camera, etc.  I will not go into details, but we cringe any time she calls unexpectedly, because we wonder what new item she is having issues with.  Mom told Dad not to be surprised if she called at some point with a complaint about this picture frame.  Dad was not to be deterred.

I like digital picture frames.  We have one somewhere in the house, though I have yet to get it set up.  It belongs to Mom and Dad, and eventually I will get it set up for them.  I eventually plan to get one for myself.  The only thing stopping me is that I really do not know where to put it.

Dad called me earlier today and asked if I would upload some pictures to the frame, because he planned to drop it off earlier this evening.  I agreed and went about the task.  The longest part was decided what pictures to load on the frame.

I went with family photos of us at the Tae Kwon Do school.  I wanted to show that Tae Kwon Do and Kickboxing are a big part of our lives.  I added two pictures of Mom and I at the Tulip Festival earlier this year.  We go up there at least once every year to see all the tulips.  I added one of my youngest brother and his girlfriend behind his birthday cake in April.  I wanted to give a subtle reminder that my grandmother had not acknowledged his birthday, nor the birthdays of either of his siblings.  I also wanted to show that his girlfriend is a big part of his life.  I added a picture of my other brother.  It was one of the few that I have taken that I thought was decent enough to share with someone outside the immediate family.  My brother is infamous for his ability to ruin a picture.  It is the only picture of him among the pictures I loaded to the frame.  He is in our lives, but only because he is immediate family.  There is another photo of my youngest brother and his girlfriend, taken the night of her prom in June.  I added a picture of me taken aboard the cruise ship in August.  Last, I added a picture of each of the pets, since they are a big part of the family.  In all,  I loaded 17 pictures onto the frame.

When Dad got home from work, he asked how hard it was to set up.  As I pulled the frame out to show him how it worked, I replied, “For a normal person, it takes about five minutes.  For your mother, I don’t know.”  I showed him the pictures and the different features.  He would need to show his mother when he went to visit, otherwise we would get a call at some point on Christmas about how to set it up or something.  I can already see her asking for us to add more pictures somewhere down the line, but I will worry about that then.

Dad left to drop off the present at the same time Mom and I left for our Tae Kwon Do class.  He was also going to see what Grandma’s condition was.  We have heard some odd stories about her health issues over the past couple months, and the stories warranted some investigation.  Dad returned bearing several packages for the family.  Grandma is doing okay.  Her health is not great, but she is taking more caution with her activities than we were led to believe.  She could probably do more to prevent any potential problems, but I am not as concerned as I was.  She seemed to understand how to operate the frame, but we will see.  I hope she will just leave it be until she wants someone to add more pictures to it.

Among the packages Dad brought home were two gift bags for Mom and me.  Grandma put together several for friends and decided to put together two more for us after getting favorable reviews from those friends.  As I started to pull out tissue paper and look into the bag, I had that mixed feeling of dread and annoyance.  Would I be disappointed? Surprised? Would I feel awkward? The contents of the bags were the same.  The gaudiest pen I have ever seen, a decorative box of matches, and a glass ball ornament.

My grandmother likes candles and I imagine she uses matches similar to the ones she gave us to light them.  I do have scented candles, but I have not lit any in several months.  I did not need matches, but I suppose they might come in handy down the road.  I was more amused than anything else when I saw the pen, as was Mom.  We started joking about the reactions we would get if we were to use the pens in public.  The glass ornaments are beautiful.  I am glad she gave us those.  I will be able to enjoy mine for years to come.  So, I was left with mixed feelings after going through that early present.  I feel a bit awkward, a bit amused, and a bit pleasantly surprised.  It was one of Grandma’s better gifts.


About emeree

I am an Air Force veteran. I served as a Security Forces troop for nearly seven years and reached the rank of Staff Sergeant before separating in 2008. My tours of duty were in England and Oklahoma. I live in the Seattle area, which is where I grew up. I used my GI Bill and earned a degree from the University of Washington. I currently work in downtown Seattle and experience all the adventure that comes with that.
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