It’s part of the circle of life, really. As long as there has been gift-giving there has been gift-getting. And as long as there has been gift-getting, there have been those, “Oh, how…different!” gifts. Do YOU have a Visitor Exhibit in YOUR house? This is the spot on the piano where you display that porcelain pig face with sunglasses that Uncle Buster gave you one year, but only if Uncle Buster visits? Is there clear space on the coffee table for that book Aunt Booney gave you on knitting lingerie, into which you have stuffed a couple of bookmarks so it looks as if Aunt Booney’s visit has interrupted your craft project?
Or are you lucky enough to have a secondhand shop like the one in my home town, where they made a deal with another secondhand shop ten miles away. Don’t want your friends to find that inspirational coffee mug they gave you? Take it into the shop and murmur a few words, and that cup would go to the other shop, where your friends will never see. Or do you have friends to swap with, as I once swapped a grand prize I had won in a raffle: a full facial with skin peel and eyebrow plucking? I exchanged with a friend who went in to the beauty parlor and swapped it for two smaller packages which she then gave as gifts to her sisters on Christmas. I knew she was destined for great things in the world of business.
If you have a gift you don’t want, there is, of course, OUR little secondhand shop. I am thinking of all those Public TV and Public Radio premiums which you got with your donation. You may have THOUGHT you’d enjoy that documentary on Chicago in the Thirties, or the architectural boat ride along the river, but you rapidly learned that you were going to see that special during every fund drive and, what with one thing and another, you never even removed the shrinkwrap. So you passed them along to the Book Fair, with your Celtic Woman and Irish Tenors CDs.
We do not weep and wail about these donations. We know someone else will buy them, also thinking they’ll enjoy them some day (and will, in their turn, donate them back to us.) It’s better, anyhow, than those tapes where you taped the programs yourself and never watched ‘em.
(What will happen to all those programs you simply TiVo, when your apparatus is obsolete? Will they disappear, never to be seen again, unlike those crummy old VHS tapes, which will be read by some hyper-laser and then rebroadcast, so we can forever watch the Alpha-Bots Christmas but NOT the 2019 Disney All-Stars’ New Year Concert? Or will everything run forever on YouTube? Just a thought.)
Anyway, we are a refuge for those gifts people got and found they couldn’t use: that third copy of The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, or that boxed Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy, or this little item, a completely fresh and never opened History of African-American Music in Minnesota. They wait here for you to come along and decide that’s JUST the way to get revenge…to thank Aunt Booney for her last Christmas present to you. Here: toss this in. I KNOW she can also use this boxed set of LPs of Bess Myerson explaining how the sewing machine works. (EVERYONE has this DVD of Leonard Bernstein explaining how an orchestra works: you’ll have something special.)
We’ll take ‘em all…within reason. We’re not so excited about those mittens your cousin knitted you for Christmas, or the book rack your nephew made in shop class. But there’s just one sort of Christmas present we really don’t want.
YES YES YES: this is the blog you were waiting for, to tell you when NOT to donate to the Newberry because we are closed! (One more thing to check off on your Signs of the Season List.) Because the two blockbuster holidays land in the middle of the week, we are not closed all that many days. Of the days we would be open any other month, we are closed only on the 24th, 25th, 26th, and the First Day of 2020. This does not especially mean business will be brisk on the 27th,28th, 30th, and 31st, but we will be open, and chances are someone will bring in your gifts on THOSE days. Try to stay home and stay warm by the fire, sipping, if you like on the cowslip wine a co-worker gave you, working on that jigsaw puzzle which is merely fifty shades of green. You can always donate the puzzle on the second of January. (Pour the wine in the birdbath to keep it defrosted. Somebody told me cowslip wine is for the birds.)