My husband is probably the world’s worst receiver of gifts. Upon receiving a present, he immediately begins suggesting that it should be returned, exchanged for a different size, or changed in some fundamental and impossible way. He has other ways of rejecting gifts, but the principle is the same. The best response to a gift I’ve ever seen on his part is a slight pleased nod — my parents get that.

He has been sad about his brother, of course, and has been talking about going to see his other brother in California. He has talked a lot about how bad it is for families not to live together, and feeling sad about the kids having left home.

So the kids and I got together to buy him a plane ticket to California. It’s a Christmas present, but I knew I’d have to give him a chance to (as the kids put it) “freak out” early, so I told him about it.

He was obnoxious.

I was, too, after a while. “Okay,” I said, “I promise I’ll never do it again. I’m sorry.”
“You don’t understand,” he grumbled.
“You don’t understand presents,” I riposted bitterly.

At this point he assured me that he wasn’t going to go at all.

“I can do anything!” he said. It wasn’t a very good rejoinder, but it’s not his native language.
“Fine!” I said, with no excuse at all for my lack of cleverness.
“Fine!” he said. This is the traditional response.

There was more.

I was trying to remember that song about how pretty presents wrapped in paper mean nothing.

I couldn’t find it.

I did find one called “Candy Kisses,” which has nothing to do with being bad at accepting gifts.

If I can’t remember the other one, this can be the song of the day.