I've never understood why my parents bought me a gorgeous leather baseball glove for my tenth birthday and never signed me up to play Little League. I still have that glove and use it to play catch with my sons, but I cannot fathom giving them a present like that without the follow through of an opportunity to use it. The following Christmas I knew for certain a package held a soccer ball for me. I opened up a strawberry-shaped carrying case for Strawberry Shortcake dolls. My disappointment must have been obvious, but neither parent thought to ask what I'd hoped to open that morning. To this day I cannot understand my grandmother's train of thought when gave me an electric razor and a giant plastic dolly for Christmas the year I was twelve. (My cousin, a year younger, got accessories for downhill skiing.) For that matter, the hot pink velor lounge suit with a cowl neck given to me by my other grandmother for my thirteenth birthday still seems like a gift more appropriate for a senior citizen playing shuffle board on the Love Boat.
Mr. D presented me with a terra cotta flower press on my birthday a few years ago. He seemed to believe that as a gardener, I'd have a sudden urge to kill my blooming flowers and what? Decoupage' a table top with them? Out of an entire catalog of garden supplies, that was the best he could come up with? In 1996, my mother-in-law gave each of her children and their spouses $100 gift cards for Christmas. My sisters-in-law opened gift cards to Barnes & Noble, Younkers and Dillard's. She gave me an amaryllis bulb. No gift card. Not an oversight either, upon investigation. I'd somehow given her the impression that I hated gift cards so she didn't get me one.
It's possible that I'm very hard to read, difficult to buy things for. What stings is how I've never overlooked these slights--and I don't bear grudges by nature. But these memories of strange gifts, inappropriate gifts, gifts so far off the mark of what I'd have loved to receive--I carry them with me. They are markers of how people who should love me the most, know me the best, are unable to see me clearly. And I wonder, how can that be?