If it's the thought that counts, then why do we have fingers?
Y'all will be pleased to know that I've created a new spin on that tired old thing known as mathematics -- something geared more towards the fabulously right-brained members of society. It's called JaneyMath and features such premises as "rounding up to the nearest whole dollar when entering check amounts in the ledger assures you of always having more money than you think you do in the old bank account." See. Perfect sense. (I can feel the heads of all the accountant-types I know exploding in five-four-three-two...)
In JaneyMath, there's also something called the Present Theorem: For every gift-giver, there is at least one gift-receiver. Seems obvious, no?
However, there's nothing in said theorem about the intent of the gift-giver nor the attitude of the gift-receiver. We add our own subjective colors when it comes to that.
Picture it: Christmas, 1998. The Mister and I had just been married for a year and were still trying to figure out the whole "whose family do we spend what holiday with" chore. We'd done Thanksgiving with his mother in Baltimore, taking the AutoTrain in order to pick up some furniture she had for us. Christmas was split a bit, with an early celebration here locally with my folks and then several days with my father and step-mother-in-law at a mini family reunion in north Alabama. Whew.
Opting to have a little celebration at home before we hit the road on Christmas Eve night, we packed the car and then sat down for a little dinner and present unwrapping. There were lots of oooohs and ahhhhs as we revealed all sorts of treats underneath paper and ribbon.
And then we got to the boxes from The Mister's mother. I can't remember specifically what they all were -- most likely a pullover sweater for him, along with probably a Home Depot gift card and maybe a weird book by some religiously fundamental author or a "doctor" espousing a kooky unorthodox position on health and healing. There's not a lot of variety in her gift-giving repertoire. Actually there is, but let's save that conversation for another time. When I have more wine available.
Finally, there was a large box for me. I'd already received some bolts of fabric she'd picked up on a mission trip to Central America. Gorgeous cloth, but damned if I still don't know what to do with it. Anyhoo.
I tore the paper off, opened the box, pulled aside and discovered... a set of cat stove burner covers.
Wow. Just wow.
It was at that moment that I was immensely thankful I was opening the gift without the giver present. The look on my face said it all.
At the time, my beloved kitty-witty Roxanne was still around, afoot and underfoot. Black, with the exception of a white bib and white paws, she was my spoiled little minx, named after the iconic song by my favorite band, The Police. And the cats on the burner covers looked a lot like Roxanne. Nifty.
The way I see it, there are two sort of people who have cats as pets. People who like cats. And cat people.
People who like cats are just that -- they dig felines. It's not necessary to have cat images a-go-go on myriad things in their possession. They like their pet. That's kind of it.
Cat people, well, are the opposite of that. Please note that I'm not judging cat people. Some of the nicest folks I know are cat people. You do your thing (meow), I'll do mine (le mew, le purrrr.)
But. In the dictionary, next to the phrase "cat person, subgenus obsessive," is a picture of my mother-in-law.
And she assumed that because I had a cat, I liked cat stuff. That I was a cat person.
Ai yi yi.
I was extremely thankful that we had a gas stove at the time and the covers didn't even fit, saving me from having to whip them out when the M-I-L came to visit. This gift was a mismatch literally and figuratively.
And a classic example of "it's the thought that counts."
It's provided me with a good lesson in the art of gracious acceptance, though. Which has proved invaluable.
See. Silver lining. Even in the form of some cat stove burner covers. WIth some help from JaneyMath.
Gracious acceptance is an art - an art which most never bother to cultivate. We think that we have to learn how to give, but we forget about accepting things, which can be much harder than giving... Accepting another person's gift is allowing to express his feelings for you.
- Alexander McCall Smith