Buying a present and getting it right

Sharon Kennedy

While shopping at my favorite store, Tractor Supply, in the Soo, I decided to buy my brother an early birthday present. I’ve long since stopped giving him gag gifts or anything as sensible as a plunger that looks like a rifle. You’ve probably seen them in junk catalogs. All you have to do is pull the trigger and presto, the clog is gone from your sink, bathtub, or anywhere else you might be plugged.

I was on the hunt for a metal can with a lid. I spied three on a top shelf I couldn’t reach so I asked a young clerk to get the medium sized one down for me. Then I requested he hand me the lid, but he said the model I had chosen didn’t come with one. Without even a note of sarcasm in my voice, I suggested he read the sticker on the can. He graciously stuck the lid on and handed it to me.

The teenager didn’t realize some of us oldsters have trouble prying lids off if they’re jammed on so tightly it would take a team of mules to pull them off. I handed the can back to the kid and he wrestled with the lid until it finally jerked free. I gently placed it back on the can and put it in my cart. Then I meandered around the aisles looking for kitty litter. My plan was to fill the can with litter and put it in my brother’s basement as an early gift.

When I got home, I thumbed through a stack of free greeting cards that come in the mail. I found an appropriate one and signed it from his cat. As I have no idea what he calls her, I drew what looked like a paw and wrote “Meow” on the card. When Ed goes to town, I’ll go down to his house and leave the gift. By the time you read this, he will have found his present. His birthday isn’t until next month, but by then I might be off the notion of a kitty litter can as a present. I might have purchased something as useless as a bow tie, top hat, or a pair of bedroom slippers.

I say useless because he would never wear them. Buying something for the cat is a great idea. You know what I mean because you’ve done the same thing. You, too, have given a practical gift to your brother or sister. Maybe even to your husband or wife. It’s nice to receive something sparkly meant to be worn on special occasions, but often times the bejeweled item is pushed to the back of a drawer or hung in a closet and forgotten. Take my advice. You’re better off buying something your friend or loved one will use even if it’s as mundane as a metal can filled with fresh, guaranteed to clump, kitty litter.

That’s one present out of the way and I promise I won’t take it back like I did the broom I gave him for Father’s Day. When I stack wood in Ed’s indoor shed, I sweep the floor before I head home. He has a wonderful broom with heavy, stiff bristles. I have no idea where he got it, but it’s the best broom I’ve ever used.

However, there’s a problem. The bristles are taking on a new life. They’re pointing in all directions instead of staying in formation the way they should. I’m sorry to say, but its days are numbered. I went online and looked for one just like it. I thought for sure I could find its clone somewhere on the worldwide web, but I came up dry so I settled for what I thought would be a close equivalent.

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. I should have taken the small fortune it cost and bought myself a pearl necklace. It’s nice that the manufacturer said the broom was made in the United States instead of China, and it’s nice that it has a metal handle instead of plastic, and it’s nice there’s a ring on the end of the handle so it can hang on a nail, but the bristles don’t work any better than a cheap Chinese one found at Walmart.

Like so many other things in life, the broom was a thorough disappointment. I used it a couple of times, then I threw it across my bicycle handlebars and brought it home. I leaned it against a table in my garage. After a few days I realized why it had the hanging hook. The plastic bristles collapse from the weight of the metal handle.

Sometimes the special presents we pick out don’t meet our expectations or those of our friends and family. A long time ago I learned to watch the expression on the face of someone unwrapping a gift. Most people keep their eyes on the box as the recipient tears off the paper, but if you want to know how a person really feels, keep your eyes on the face. It’s easy for the voice to ooh and aah and fake delight, but the facial expression tells the truth.

Our face always gives us away. A few lucky folks are blessed with a poker face, but the rest of us wear our emotions on our mug. And so it goes.

Editor’s note: Sharon M. Kennedy of Brimley is a humorist who infuses her musings with a hardy dose of matriarchal common sense. She writes about everyday experiences most of us have encountered at one time or another on our journey through life. Her articles are a combination of present day observations and nostalgic glances of the past. She can be reached via email at In addition, Sharon has compiled a collection of stories from her various newspaper columns. The title of her book is “Life in a Tin Can.” Copies are available from Amazon in paperback or Kindle format.