There is one present that I look forward to and dread in equal measure every year. My mother-in-law always comes up trumps with a corker of a gift, never fails. There was the year she gave me a male deodrant set, the year she gave me the cardigan I’d given her the year before (with all the buttons missing) and, of course, the year she gave me a bottle of amaretto eight years past its sell by date and only two thirds full.
I sweat it out every year, trying to find the perfect pressie from us to her – a tasteful ornament, a subscription to her favourite magazine, something nice for the garden, some high-end toiletries… It makes no difference to the amount of effort she puts into her shopping in return. So I’ve come up with a plan that won’t leave me fuming over the turkey. An eye for an eye and all that.
I open her present first. Best to get it out of the way early. She wraps things quite nicely – which makes the crushing blow of the actual present sting a bit more – and she must have shares in sellotape as whatever it is she’s bought me is practically wreathed in the stuff. It’s quite heavy and irregularly shaped. After resorting to the scissors, I finally peel away the paper and reveal… a Hindu goddess. Just what I always wanted.
My husband can’t stop laughing. It’s alright for him, she just gives him cash every year. But, despite myself, I can’t help chuckling either. She’s still fully capable of totally surprising me – just when I think her gifts can’t get any more eccentric, mean-spirited or weird, she comes up with something that takes my breath away.
“It’s probably cursed….!” my husband whispers in my ear, in what he imagines is a spooky voice. It certainly is as far as his mum’s concerned. That’s going in the garden shed until next Christmas when I’ll wrap it beautifully and pop it under her tree. This goddess is coming back to haunt her.