Sara Vanden Berge

I hate to admit it, but when it comes to receiving Christmas gifts, I still get as excited as I did when I was a little girl.

As a kid, Christmas in our house was big. Mom and dad did lots of shopping, and as an only child, I got more presents than I probably deserved. As an adult, my Christmas morning excitement has been tempered slightly. I blame it on marriage.

My husband is good at many things, but he never mastered the art of gift-giving. He means well, of course, but his choice in presents of Christmases past have been, at times, baffling.

On our first Christmas morning as a married couple, I was excited to see what presents he had purchased. Like most women, I donít want anything that I can use in the kitchen. I like things that make me smell nice and sparkle. That particular year, I also wanted a diamond bracelet, so imagine my surprise when I opened up a long, skinny box that revealed a pink toothbrush.

Iím sure my expression showed my confusion and disappointment.

ďWell, you are always brushing your teeth and I thought you could use a new one,Ē he said.

It took everything out of me not to cry. I opened my next package and it got worse.

It was a Fry Daddy - a big, ugly appliance you fill with vegetable oil and fry foods in. As if that wasnít bad enough, my last gift was a popcorn popper. Nevermind that I avoid fried foods like the plague and never order popcorn at the theater. By then, I couldnít stop the tears and I didnít even care. I was disappointed and I wanted it to show.

Over the years, his gift giving has improved slightly. One year I got a beautiful triple strand of pearls with matching earrings, but the following year it was back to bad. Thatís when he decided to buy me an outrageously expensive coat lined with the fur of baby seals. I was horrified.

Two weeks ago, my dishwasher stopped working. Iím afraid to complain too loudly and have been scrubbing pots and pans feverishly in hopes that this yearís Christmas present wonít be a Kenmore replacement.

Last week I was in his office and moved to open a drawer when he wheeled in front of me and said, ďYou canít get in there. Thatís where Iím hiding your present.Ē

I was relieved because the space was not big enough to hide an appliance, but I was still too scared to look.

Sara Vanden Berge is managing editor of the Empire-Tribune. She can be reached at