A gift wrapped dog bone, to be exact.
My girlfriend and I had only been a couple for maybe one or two years when the first shot was fired across the bow-by her mother.
She sends these crazy Christmas packages every year, and that was the year she sent me the bone. Oh, there was no mistake-the gift tag was quite clear about that. She also sends things like the “world’s tiniest boombox”, and little crazy toys, and 16-function flashlights...you get the idea.
Obviously a response was in order, and next Christmas it was delivered: the dog bone wreath (more or less 50 dog bones strung around a hoop, with a lovely ribbon), was enclosed in our return box. I had spent months searching for the perfect return message, and just by happenstance it turned up at the flower shop.
Somehow the Bosley Group had, by this time, taken an interest in my receding hairline. Every week or so my mailbox had Bosley’s newest advice about “restoring more than just hair”. There was sudden new mail regarding my interest in curing my problems with enuresis. A certain $7 a month life insurance company was, out of the blue, interested in my life. Now I knew (or at least I was pretty sure I knew-I have been forgetful on occasion...) that I wasn’t signing up for this stuff, and it was fairly obvious that escalation was going to be required. And I was willing to escalate.
I admit, before proceeding, that innocent trees were harmed by this portion of my story, and I apologize for those who will take offense at my actions. Unfortunately war will result in collateral damage, and this was quickly becoming war.
The Wall Street Journal provides a handy service for those wishing the opportunity to peruse the annual reports of major corporations, and I went ahead and signed her up for the service. Suddenly, she was telling my girlfriend (who by this time was firmly established as The Girlfriend) on the phone about being inundated by reports from Switzerland, for God’s sake, and who knows where else...about 75 in total found their way to her door over the period of a few months. I had apparently impressed her with this attack, and she knew she was facing a worthy opponent.
Just to bring a sense of perspective: this is not an angry war by any means. Imagine instead, the 1859 Pig War between the US and Britain-a bit of muscle flexing, but nothing serious.
The crazy gifts continued-in both directions. We love (uncompensated endorsement ahead) the Archie McPhee store (your best source for Zombie Brain Gelatin molds, Corn Dog air fresheners, and Avenging Narwhal Play Sets!), and have, over the years, sent a substantial portion of their inventory to The Girlfiend’s mother-including Nunzilla (a wind-up sparking nun who would probably spank Mothra with a ruler if he got out of hand...but I digress).
As a joke, I reminded her that if I really had wanted to escalate I would have donated $10 to a televangelist and asked for financial advice-but I’m not that mean.
The Crystal Cathedral, it turns out, is in pretty much constant need of repairs and expansion, and it costs a fortune to keep Dr. Schuller on the air. It was also costing him a fortune to send me, in a most determined manner, missives urging my support of the various emergencies down there at the old Cathedral. I’m not kidding either-that is some determined bunch of fundraisers on that crew.
It was time to roll with a serious response now-and I had my army ready.
My army of free samples.
Deodorant, tampons, and my personal second favorite, Attends, all began to descend upon her mailbox. It was actually starting to have an effect-she was expressing concern about what the mailman would think about her...
Ever read the ads in the back of Food Technology magazine?
Which is how I found the best thing yet-the sample of artificial lard (yes, artificial lard) that turned up in the surprisingly heavy box on her doorstep one afternoon, all warm in the San Diego summer.
Caught her by surprise, that one did.
“Where the hell did he find that?!” was the basic tenor of the response.
Somewhere around this time the cards began to be addressed to “Sonny”.
This was the first indication that I was winning...
We‘ve been at this so long that the “everything old becomes new again” theory has come to pass. Consider this: one Christmas she sent me the “Bushwhacker”-a three foot tall inflatable “bop bag” with George Bush’s image. George H.W. Bush. 20 years later, it’s just as good a present as it was then.
Over the years shopping for gifts has evolved from a “tit for tat” to shopping for “necessities”. The most recent package, having arrived Thursday, is a perfect example-See’s candy gift certificates (she’s apparently the only person who gets 4 pounds of “Scotchmallow”-and nothing else) being the most important item of all. But lately, she’s begun to watch DVDs of the films she enjoyed in times past. (12 Shirley Temple movies really hit the spot last year...). The wind-up pig that poops jellybeans was a hit, but the “peas and carrots” candy mix-not so much...
Shopping no longer fits around holidays, either, which is why I have to pick up a copy of “Gigi” this week-we’re already starting a new box the week after sending the old box. (She actually reads these stories, so no surprise package this time, I suppose.)
So that’s my Mother’s Day story-a story that started with me getting a gift-wrapped doggie bone, and finds me today having gained a second Mom.
Author’s Note: Your friendly fake consultant took an unexpected week off, and with the exception of watching the Gonzales hearings, had little to do with the “real” world; and I would encourage all of you to do the same. I will be returning with “real world” stories as the week progresses.