Wednesday, September 24, 2008

My brother's all right.

Gift giving season is upon us. Well, "us" assuming you are now or ever were a Bennett. Most of you start dealing with this in December, possibly November. But most of you don't have a string of birthdays to contend with between now and Christmas.

Awesome gift-giving started with my dad, who gave the worst gifts ever but thought about them so long and hard and was so excited to give them, that you just kind of loved them through the sheer force of his enthusiasm. I'll elaborate more on this on his birthday in a couple of weeks, but for now, let's just say that for my 30th birthday I got caulk, weather-stripping, and a lesson one Saturday morning in how to use it.

My brother is the current master. His gift-giving allows us to forgive his relative uncommunicativeness the rest of the year where, when he doesn't feel like talking to you, you might get a non-commital grunt. It's not rude; he just doesn't talk about things he doesn't want to talk about. Like his feelings. Or the weather. But then a birthday or Christmas rolls around (they're one and the same for me) and you open up a gift that you never knew you needed and suddenly discover you can't live without it. It's a gift that reflects the fact that Jamie (whose picture I'm going to post although it will horrify him to be featured on a pink blog but I don't care because he doesn't read it so that's what he gets) has actually been paying careful attention to you and what you need and what might help you. Case in point: one year he gave my dad a leaf blower. My dad didn't ask for a leaf blower. I don't think my dad ever thought about a leaf blower. But when he had it, he immediately teared up. Not because it was a new, noisy tool (although that's certainly prompted tears of joy in the past) but because he realized my brother didn't like the idea of him stooped over a broom and dustpan when trying to clean off the back patio.

Sometimes his gifts aren't deep, but they hit the mark, anyway. Last year he got my husband an ant farm. You know any 37-year-old guys just waiting for an ant farm on Christmas morning? My husband about lost his mind when he opened it up. And the year before that my brother got him a pack of 500 business cards that said, "Kenny Jacobson, Supra Genius" (a la Wile E. Coyote). Kenny will never be able to use them for anything, but he loves them.

Have you read that book about people's love languages? I haven't, but I know one is gift-giving. That's my brother's. Vintage Jamie Bennett at age 16:

Mom: How are you doing, Jamie?
Jamie: (Bedroom door clicks closed behind him, no answer).
Mom: (trying again the next day) How's school going?
Jamie: click.
Mom: (next day) Hot enough out there for you?
Jamie: click.

Fast forward to her birthday a month later...

Mom: What's this?
Jamie: Mumble mumble mumble.
Mom: What's that you say?
Jamie: It's a gift certificate for a perm.

And then cut to Mom crying because she was watching every penny and hadn't been to the salon in a year and Jamie saved his allowance for two months to get her a haircut and perm although she never mentioned it.

That's how Bennetts roll, or people like me, who used to be Bennetts.

Of course, there are times when it's best to skip nuanced gift-giving. Like when my son says, "For my birthday next week, I'd like the new Tommy 20 Nerf Blaster," it's best to give him that and not something thoughtful and profound that speaks of our deeper love for him. Really, the fact that I'll go to Walmart to look for it speaks of my deeper love because I hate Walmart and one day he'll realize that I went there anyway and it will make him feel warm inside.

So, I was going to write a whole lot more about the gift-giving philosophy in our family, but it kind of flouts my whole "practice brevity" dealio, so maybe another day. I leave you with a picture of my brother from when he accidentally set his hair on fire as payback for the time he stuck those whippersnappers under the toilet seat and scared me to death at 3 in the morning.

And just in case you're thinking, "Aw, Melanie said some really nice things about her brother. I bet he'll like that," then Ha! You haven't been paying attention to how this works. I'm not telling him I wrote this post. I will, however, get him something downright thoughtful that he can't live without for his birthday in a couple of weeks. You know, like the most perfect gift ever. And I guarantee if Jamie is reading my blog and just not ever commenting, today will be the day that he does, and you'll know because his will be the one that says, "You're a dork."

Seven comments to move on.


Melanie's Sister said...

It's true.

Heather of the EO said...

I love the family love that makes fun of family but is still family love cause it still recognizes the sweetness of someone in the family love tree.

Did that make any sense? I doubt it!
Where did the word verification go?

Kimberly said...

Spooky indeed! I haven't read that love languages book but I had it summarized for me and whoo boy did it make sense.

Alas, I'm a person who wants verbal praise but loves to give gifts married to a guy who likes to receive acts of service and likes to give...umm...advice.

It's a miracle we're still married.

Lisa said...

Great post. It makes me a little sad, though as I am severely lacking in the giving a good gift department. Unfortunately I just rarely do it anymore. It's very sad.

But this is really awesome about your brother. I have a brother who acts a lot like yours day to day. He never gives good gifts or anything, but once in a blue moon he'll smile at you or laugh at a joke,and it completely makes up for any previous reticence and makes you realize that he actually DOES remember you exist and he MIGHT even like you!!

Alison Wonderland said...

Sometimes I'm a fantastic gift giver and sometimes... not so much.

I'm just not really a fan of having to give a gift. I want to give gifts just because I want to not because it's your birthday.

charrette said...

Delightful bit of family lore here!

And if life were an analogy (which it pretty much is to me) I think I might be your brother to my family.

I usually nail the perfect gift for at least a few people a year. And delight in doing it. Even at random, non-holiday times. But I'm also the sister who rarely writes and never calls and has no patience for small-talk.

Hey -- and we need to talk because I am a Bennett too. I hope you're actually from a branch of my (very large) Bennett tree.

Dane said...

I love thoughtful gifts. Amy Lou gave me some great construction paper flowers for Mother's Day one year.

Emily said...

Loved this post. BTW, the book The Five Love Languages is excellent. Your brother is most certainly giving and receiving gifts.