Cheap Gifts and Love

By Janey Womeldorf

Cheap Gifts and Love

Cost of gift: $2.00. Cost to mail: $22.50.

Mother’s Day was fast approaching, and I was clueless what to get. Coming up with original gift ideas for anybody in our family has become virtually impossible with every passing decade. If there’s a point in life when you don’t need more “stuff,” we are all there.

I often joke, “If we can’t eat it, drink it or wear it, we probably don’t need it.” Suddenly, it hit me: my Mum loves my home-made, double-oatmeal cookies. Whenever she comes to visit, I am required to make a double batch—one for her to eat while she’s there, and one for her to take home. I have shown her how to make them but she’s not interested—cooking them herself would dilute what makes them special. I decided to make her a batch for Mother’s Day and send them to her, even though that would mean sending them internationally to England where she lives. Undeterred, I filled two baggies, packaged them in a sturdy box and cheerfully headed to the post office.

“First-class international costs $22.50 or you can send it priority for $33.50,” the clerk informed me. I reeled for a second at the shock and with my inner shame flame burning bright, replied, “I’ll take the cheapest.”

There is something that smacks of tightwad when you utter the word “cheapest” and anything gift-related for someone you love, in the same sentence. It’s like finding the perfect Mother’s Day card at Wal-Mart only to turn it over and see 97 cents glaring on the back; I can’t bring myself to buy it even if it is perfect. The bizarre thing is; I would happily give my husband of 27 years a 97-cents Valentines Day card. We’d probably even celebrate my bargain find afterwards. Mothers, however, fall under a different set of love rules — one that dictates you spend at least $2.95.

I joked to the counter clerk that there was something absurd about paying almost $25 to mail something that cost barely $2 to make, but mentioned they were cookies for my Mum and “when your Mum loves your cookies, your Mum gets your cookies.”

“That’s nothing,” he responded. “I had a woman at my counter last week mailing a food package to her husband that was almost two-feet high.”

“Oh my gosh,” I gasped. “That must have cost a fortune.” Apparently, the husband had recently moved to California for a temporary job assignment and was staying in a hotel at the company’s expense. During their phone call the night before, he had gushed how much he missed his wife and ached to get home because of how much he missed her cooking, especially her gumbo. The next morning she got up, cooked up a huge batch of gumbo, and decided to ship it to him—crockpot and all.

I chuckled, but knew exactly how she felt; it’s called love. Years before, while my husband was in the military, his unit got shipped to an unnamed desert overseas. While he was there, two things kept him going—our weekly phone call and the plane that came in every other week to deliver the mail. During one of our phone calls, I noticed he seemed more homesick than usual. After hanging up, I racked my brain to think of the perfect piece of home I could include in my next mail package.

One thing we cherish on the weekends is Sunday mornings. Nothing unwinds you from a busy week like idling away a couple of hours, quietly reading the paper, perusing the ads and cutting coupons, while enjoying the homemade cookies we only bring out on weekends. It’s relaxation at its finest. That following Sunday, once I was done, I gathered up all the ads and coupons and rolled them back up along with the entire paper and Parade magazine and dropped the whole lot back into its plastic sleeve. Once I located a box big enough, I placed the hefty roll inside along with the orange-handled scissors from our kitchen drawer. Last but not least, I put in a bag of cookies that I made with my new heart-shaped cookie cutter, and sealed it up. When he called that night, I said nothing—he already lived for mail day; this time though, I think I was as excited as he was.

Two weeks later, I answered the phone. The joy gushed out of him with such velocity I couldn’t tell whether he was laughing or crying. Either way, his reaction to my “Sunday morning in a box” was obvious — he was ecstatic. He joked how all the other guys had made fun of him cutting coupons with his bright-orange scissors but, he hadn’t cared—for those few precious hours, it was Sunday, and he was home.

I don’t remember how much that package cost to send because it didn’t matter: Gifts of the heart are worth every penny.

I handed the post office clerk my credit card, but there was no way I could leave without the key part of the gumbo story. “So how much did that crockpot of gumbo cost?” I inquired nosily. “Over $100,” he replied. I flinched with guilt; my $22.50 was a pittance in comparison.

As I left the post office, I realized that when you are apart from someone you love, nothing closes the distance like a taste of home. I already knew my Mum’s face would light up when she opened her gift and that, to me, was worth a far site more than $22.50. I hadn’t even reached the car, and I already couldn’t wait for her to open her present. I tucked the receipt in my purse and smiled to myself. My sticker shock was long gone, and I had no regrets about how much her Mother’s Day present had cost to send. I’d be lying if I didn’t confess one thing though:

I’m sure glad it’s cookies she likes, not gumbo.

About this writer

  • Janey Womeldorf Janey Womeldorf once went to work wearing different shoes. She now freelance writes and scribbles away in Orlando, Florida. It’s probably best.

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One Response to “Cheap Gifts and Love”

  1. Janey, your story exudes love. I know what you mean about a mother’s card compared to a hubby’s. I had to laugh at that. Great story!

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