They canceled the type of candle my mother likes. It makes it even harder to shop for her. I drove to three different towns looking for that candle before someone told me it was discontinued & I had to find a supplement. Mom’s problem is that she has no passions & no hobbies. It makes it very hard to get new & thoughtful gifts for someone like that.

I ended up getting her the next closest thing. She still wants candles. Candles are really all she wants, so I got her the next closest thing & felt the usual horrible about it. With my dad I can at least grab him something that follows his hobbies & interests. Mom doesn’t even read. So it goes.

One year, for Christmas I got mom a megaphone. She used to call dad, from her bedroom, to bring her a Coke. I figured, why waste her minutes? I’ll just get her a megaphone to call dad in the next room. It’s useful & certainly not without it’s humor.

I think dad broke it. But it still remains the most thoughtful gift I ever got my mother. At least its the most thoughtful gift that I got her & she actually used.

A couple few days ago, out of the blue, mom got me a Bill Clinton campaign watch. It was only around five dollars at an antique store. My parents & friends are always buying me propaganda. Kennedy bumper stickers, Nixon campaign buttons. They’ll see a cheap little piece of propaganda & pick it up for me.

For my birthday on year, Dad got me a cloth Ho Chi Minh banner from Vietnam. It had an old blood stain on it. It was a banner that they gave to soldiers to boost moral. That was expensive propaganda. I got a “IWW” poster from Seattle from a friend as an apartment warming gift once. It was a reproduction of a 1916 poster. It came with a sticker of a Kitten dressed as Che.

If you go to my apartment, it looks like a political museum. Propaganda is mass produced & therefore cheap. A couple of bucks & family & friends can feed an obsession, a hobby. Getting first edition books for me is a lot more expensive, but a dollar here & there for a campaign button is dirt cheap & everyone knows that I watch Fox & MSNBC for the Propaganda, not for the news. I like the things that tell people how to think.

I really want to get my hands on Nazi propaganda to offset all the communist & American pieces I have littered around any given apartment, but you get a stigma when you buy something like that & when you let strangers in, for the most part, a giant IWW poster or an enormous picture of Che goes over much better than a swastika.

When you have interests like that, it’s really easy to shop for someone. Pop over to an antique store, pick up a $2 Bush/Cheney bumper sticker & you have something thoughtful & creative. You’re done shopping. You can move on with your life & you know it’s going to be loved & displayed. You just spent $2 on a gift that will be considered a “valued part of the collection.”

Mom doesn’t collect crap. Mom watches TV & burns candles. That’s all she does.

“What do you want for Christmas, Mom?”

“A Vanilla Bean Yankee Candle.”

(eye roll)

With dad, sometimes I could walk through Borders & think, “what part of history can I get him?” When I can’t think of anything good there, I fall back to “Native American.” I went online one time & ordered him a little bag of Roman coins to let his imagination run wild. I got him a peace pipe at an antique store in Wisconsin once. He’s gotten metal detectors, old Time Magazines with articles about Patton, & arrow heads.

His interests are close enough to mine. He’s more pre-Colombian guy, I’m Cold War guy, but the interests mesh. Dad is easy to shop for. You get him a Civil War ball & you’ll see him playing with that piece of led in his pocket as he tries to imagine who touched it. The same thing with those Roman coins. Roman coins are a dime a dozen, the entire bag cost me around $10, but the amount of time he fondled them as he imagined Joe Blow in ancient Roman going about his daily life with one of them in his pocket makes it a priceless gift.

“What do you want for your birthday, Mom?”

“A Vanilla Bean Yankee Candle.”

(eye roll)

My sister, she isn’t into history, but that doesn’t matter. She started the family obsession with Harry Potter. You can get her Harry Potter paraphernalia, or you could, until it got to the point where you debated if she already had a copy of “Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them.” Once you started wondering that, it was time to stop Harry Potter, at least until something new came out.

Even without Potter, she’s got her interests. You find that a stuffed killer-rabbit from Monty Python, that will make a good gift. You know, even at almost thirty, she’d still blow up & play with a talking Black Knight punching bag. She’ll play with Nerf guns & Nerf swords. She’s into comedies & the Golden Age of Hollywood. She loves old musicals.

For sister a thoughtless no-effort gift is a season of “New Girl.” Even that, if you get it for her she’ll watch it & appreciate it & the follow-up thoughtless gift would be season 2, still a little different. You are still not getting her the same thing every gift-giving event. If you want to be thoughtless, you can progress through the seasons. You are never being that thoughtless.

Seasons of “New Girl” or “Friends” is what you get her when you can’t find a stuffed Stay-Puff Marsh Mellow Man. It’s what you get her when you don’t come across an over-sized poster of “My Fair Lady,” or a crucifix with Graham Chapman on the cross instead of Jesus.

“What do you want for Mother’s Day Mom?”

“A Vanilla Bean Yankee Candle.”

(eye roll)

You feel like an absolutely horrible son when finally, you break down & just buy mom the same old thing. She doesn’t wear new jewelry, she wears the same jewelry she always did. She only eats Kraft Swiss cheese grilled cheese sandwiches on whole grain oat bread, lightly buttered. She loves Coca-Cola, but you’ll be damned if you try to hang a coca-cola sign in her house. The stuff you get dad is not anything you put on display.

She doesn’t collect plates like my ex-girlfriend’s mother.

Mother’s Day is a high stress event that always leaves you feeling insanely guilty.


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