(This is the piece I didn't submit for the Erma Bombeck Writing Competition. I decided to go with a serious piece, on the human interest side of the contest, instead.)
Even one of the Wise Men gave money for Christmas, but my daughter has decreed my gold to be "crass."
My daughter is good at buying gifts. When people open presents from her, their eyes transform into twinkling lights. For my gifts, they're more like the solar batteries on a calculator, computing how quickly they can regift this stinker.
So I was excited, this year, to find a beautiful print of the Conservatory where my daughter is COO. It was the frankincense of gifts, demonstrating my pride in her achievements, my thoughtfulness and my good taste.
There was just one fly in the myrrh: My daughter's spouse isn’t all that crazy about the painter, an ex-, but I figured my daughter could hang the picture in her office, where her spouse wouldn't see it.
When the print arrived, I took it to a professional, who selected mats and a frame that further beautified my gift. I left the shop congratulating myself on a Christmas coup: I had the perfect present, I’d spent only slightly more than I could afford, and it wasn’t even Thanksgiving.
It was then that things began to fall apart.
First, my daughter called to say that financial issues at the Conservatory were causing them to recast the entire budget. She might be asked to take a demotion.
“Will you lose your office?” I asked, alarmed.
“No, I don’t think so," she said.
“Then it’s no big deal.”
“What do you mean, ‘no big deal’?! It’s a pay cut, I’ll lose my title, I'll….”
“I mean,” I said quickly, “it can’t be too bad if get to keep your office.”
Two weeks later, she called again, fuming.
“I ran into my ex, the painter, at a baby shower,” she said. “She snubbed me.”
My frankincense was starting to smell more like donkey dung.
“I’m sure you’re overreacting,” I said. “She probably just felt awkward.”
“The next day I checked Facebook. She unfriended me!”
Facebook is today’s social barometer. It you’re not friends on Facebook, you’re simply not friends.
The next day, I picked up the print. It was exquisite in its new frame. I felt a little better.
Until, two days before we were due to exchange gifts, when my daughter called again, in tears.
“The position they offered me at work is a 17% pay cut,” she wailed. “It sets my career back five years. I just can’t do that.”
“What do you mean you can’t do that?" I said.
“I resigned, Mom.”
And so am I – to giving cash from now on.
If gold was good enough for Melchior, it's good enough for me.