Dear Santa Blogs,
In July, I noticed a number of CDs with parental advisory labels. I think this is a useful idea, but misapplied. When I was wrapping the books I bought in the heat of summer, I happened to glance up at the shelves and realize that my loved ones already own three of the books I picked out.
Could you come up with a system of Customer Advisory Labels to let me know not to buy books that are already in the house?
Well, I have for years suggested to people who donate books that they put a secret signal somewhere in the book so they don’t buy their own back again, but yours is another problem.
Unless you start carrying a catalog of all your family’s books on your phone, I see no answer to your quandary. Your only recourse is to come up with something that will smooth over the moment when the person unwrapping the gift sees a glorious volume that was also glorious three Christmases ago.
Is it too late to cultivate a reputation for cluelessness? If no one expects much of you, a duplicate book can be a positive boon. Your loved ones can simply murmur, “Well, anyhow, it’s not another black lace Snuggie.”
Or you can feign super-competence. “I noticed you’ve read The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood until the pages are coming loose. I thought you could use a nice, fresh copy.” You now have an air not only of knowing exactly which books your loved ones like most, but you come off as highly thoughtful.
Perhaps you can pretend your loved one is the one who is really thoughtful. “You said you really enjoyed the Minute Tapioca Cookbook, so I thought maybe you’d like another copy to give your Aunt Lois.” If Aunt Lois already has a Minute Tapioca Cookbook, you may have to fall back on, “You’re always saying you wish you had more cookbooks to give the Newberry Book Fair.” Let me know how that works out for you.
You CAN try getting hold of it while no one’s looking and scribbling in the name of the author. When your loved one looks inside and sees the autograph, you can say, “Well, I wondered when you’d notice. You don’t think I’d just get you another copy of a book you already have.” Don’t try this with the Complete Works of Shakespeare or a paperback Pride and Prejudice.
Do you have a fireplace? You can claim you bought it for kindling. Or just grab the book and toss it in with a “Wow! Did you see the size of that firesnake? I think it was after your marzipan!”
Frankly, Dupe, though I feel your pain, you know your loved ones best. This little gaffe could just be the sort of made-for-TV Christmas movie miracle that simply brings you closer together. You can all sit around and realize that at least you’re the sort of family that shares books and know what each other loves to read. After all, have you checked through all the books THEY gave YOU? Maybe this memory thing is a family trait.