It’s that time of year once again, and ever since I started seeing the first of the annual Christmas decorations appearing around town—just after Labor Day—I have had that queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach. Some of you parents out there probably know the one I am talking about. It is that tickle you get right before something bad happens. The technical term for my particular twinge is BPPS—Bad Parental Present Syndrome—and at my house it is most prevalent each year during the month of December.

Whoever said “it is better to give than receive” either was a parent or was looking through my living-room window one Christmas morning. Don’t get me wrong. I love my children and always have, but I love them in spite of their presents, not because of them. And no matter how hard I try, I just can’t seem to get the message across that it is not necessary to give me a gift, that I am truly happier without one. Back when the kids were younger, it seemed like we would have the same conversation each year.

“What do you want for Christmas, Dad?”

“Not a thing. I am surrounded by the warmth of my children. What more could a man need?”

“But it’s Christmas! We have to get you a Christmas present!”

“Really, I have everything my heart could ever desire. You kids. Mom. The dog. Cable.”

“We are not going to let you wake up on Christmas morning without a present.”

“Well, all right, then. (Sigh) But something small, okay?”

“Okay! We love you, Dad!”

“I love you, too.”

“Can we have some money?”

Of course, now that they are all grown, I no longer have to fund my own BPP, but I still have to receive the thing and unwrap it, which is really the worst part, anyway. The irony in all of this is that I would actually pay, and pay well, to not get a present, but no one has asked. So, in the hopes that at least one of my children sees this and takes pity on an old man at Christmas, here is a short list of items I don’t want on December 25th.

No more slippers, please. I already have more slippers than Target. If I ever buy a football team, I can give all the players and the coaching staff a nice pair of slippers as a signing bonus. I have leather, cotton, vinyl, and suede. I have Garfield, the Grinch, puppies, and raccoons. I have them with lights, with sounds, with pink fringe, and with deely bobbers.

Actually, I sort of like the ones with the deely bobbers. Now that I think about it, I may have bought those myself.

It’s not that I don’t want any more Looney Tunes neckties, but I am running out of places to hang them up. I have three Bugs Bunny neckties, two Sylvester neckties, a Yosemite Sam necktie, a Tweety Bird necktie, and a Roadrunner necktie that goes meep meep whenever I try to eat Acme bird seed under a suspended anvil.

Insert “boxer shorts” for “neckties” and re-read the above paragraph.

I have had a beard since 1976. None of my children has ever seen my face. These facts would seem to imply that I am not a regular shaver, but every year, like clockwork, I get a bottle of after shave. And not just any bottle of after shave. It is always a bottle of after shave like they would make down at the chicken-processing plant if they began making after shave down at the chicken-processing plant. The kind of stuff you wouldn’t want to leave in direct sunlight. The kind of stuff you shouldn’t smoke around. The kind of stuff that, if you splash it on, for the rest of the day people in your vicinity wrinkle their noses and ask things like, “Is the chicken-processing plant on fire?”

By the way, if anyone out there is planning to buy after shave this year as a gift for a loved one, a good shopping tip is to always give more than one dollar for substances that might come in contact with human skin. After shave should make Dad’s skin tingle and burn after he shaves, not before.

Anyway, back to my Christmas list. Please don’t buy me any of the following: a Popeil Pocket Fisherman, a bottle and jar cutter, anything with the word “Chia” in it, a smokeless ashtray, fingerless gloves, magic x-ray glasses, sea monkeys, dental floss, a paint-by-number kit, a boomerang, Yanni’s Greatest Hits, any gift that has a pulse, books written in foreign languages, clothing from The World’s Greatest Dad collection, skunk jerky, a rock tumbler, items requiring assembly, a Veg-o-Matic, silly string, Ginsu knives, the three-disc collection of Bonanza Bloopers, bait, dogs-playing-poker art, Karaoke equipment, the Survivor home game, or a gift card from the Laser Tag Outlet Store.

I am not being fussy or hard to get along with, here. It’s just that I already have a nice selection of all these items left over from previous years.

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Raymond L. Atkins

Raymond L. Atkins

Raymond L. Atkins resides in Rome, Georgia. His stories have been published in Christmas Stories from Georgia, The Lavender Mountain Anthology, The Blood and Fire Review, The Old Red Kimono, Long Island Woman, and Savannah Magazine. His humorous column —"South of the Etowah" — appears in The Rome News-Tribune. His industrial maintenance column — "The Fundamentals" — appears in Maintenance Technology Magazine. His humorous column — "And So It Goes" — appears in Memphis Downtowner Magazine. His first novel, "The Front Porch Prophet," was published by Medallion Press in June of 2008 to critical acclaim and earned the 2009 Georgia Author of the Year Award for First Novel. His second novel, "Sorrow Wood," was released in June 2009 by Medallion Press and has been nominated for the 2010 Georgia Author of the Year Award for Fiction. Both are available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other fine booksellers. His third novel, "Camp Redemption," will be released in August, 2011.

4 Comments
  1. Mark Johnson

    (I have a signed and notarized document that affirms the following does not relate in any way to gifts given to me by any of my children or grandchildren. )
    THE PRESENT GIVER: I wanted you to have something special. Open it.
    ME: You’re so thoughtful. And special.
    TPG: Awww.
    I open the present.
    ME: “Wow! It’s a can of cashew nuts. I’m speechless.”
    TPG beams.

    TPG: “Do you like it?”

  2. Okay – there must be something to becoming a DAD that puts you into the impossible to buy for box. I always stared at my Dad like I was a deer in the headlights trying to figure out what to give him. One year I gave him a little statue of an elephant. He didn’t collect statues or elephants. It made no sense at all. He also had a collection of t-shirts, socks, and aftershave.
    BUT – nothing – c’mon and help us all out. You are a creative man! Tell us what a man of your means could really use, might really want – so we can stop buying pocket fisherman and singing fish for the wall!

  3. River Jordan I don’t want to dampen the humor here because it is wonderful and you have added some gift choices that made me remember and laugh out loud (lol for you texters) but any gift you get for your Dad is more appreciated than you know. I remember my Dad Christmas morning sitting in his recliner wearing new bathrobe, slippers, hats, ties, socks, and a pile of shaving products in his lap. This was to be the last time he would wear any of it except maybe the socks. So my suggestion is SOCKS. He won’t care what but he will remember who and that you thought of him at Christmas.
    Just be glad you still have your Dad.

  4. Oh and MERRY CHRISTMAS! I’m up early to see if Santa drink the whole bottle last night. It sure feels like he did.

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