Christmas Blues: Father-in-Law’s Text Message That Broke My Heart

I married the firstborn in a huge family. My wife is often the de facto parent. The uncelebrated head of a chaotic chain of command.

Always, she’s either an emissary of good tidings or a benevolent, tireless mediator when conflicts arise between her siblings and their folks.

Firstborns deserve an automatic spot in heaven.

Beginning of December, she received a text message from her father. The old man rarely texts – or calls. He’d often delegate such minor roles to my mother-in-law.

If he did, chineke – the mountain has shifted. Or, about to shift.

“Hello Mama. I hope the city is kind to you all. Kindly tell everyone not to bring us any Christmas gifts this year. Kujeni tu tupige sherehe mama.

‘Everyone’ meant my wife’s six siblings, and their children. Tradition over the years meant a family get-together over Christmas season.

Like clockwork, we’d descend on the village laden with gifts and rental cars. A desperate attempt at redemption for missing out for most of the year.

I recalled random conversations with my father-in-law. After every trip, old man’s remarks branded it all as ‘unnecessary’.

At the time, I thought it was a modest reference to a stable retirement. I was wrong.

The text was a cryptic message. They loved gifts, sure – but, not the kind we brought!

Like, of what need are decorative things? They no longer needed, or had space to display fancy, Chinese crockery!

A dozen grandkids would bring food. Boxes of roast ham, goat ribs and even pizza! Poor parents would be tired of meat and processed foods in a few days.

Crates of fruit arrived once. Mzee held an orange with a grocer sticker on it, and said:

“If this wasn’t so perfectly colored orange, I’d swear it came from our shamba”.

We had laughed it off as a joke, and missed the message. They had an orchard, for crying out loud!

A granddaughter would bring Grandma bouquets of flowers. They made her sneeze, so she’d lock them up in a spare bedroom till they died so she could throw them out.

We need to do different gifting this year.

While elderly parents can be picky, get something they like, or actually need. A thoughtful gift need not be large, or expensive.

I have some suggestions.

Perhaps, pay off one of their bills for a few months in advance. That’s great. It spares a bit of their own money to spoil themselves.

Or, why not take them shopping? That’s a treat – have mum pick groceries and pay it off. Or, treat your father to a jersey of his favorite football team.

Do they like a drink on their patio to watch the sun set? Get a bottle of something premium.

I logged online and paid an annual subscription for my father-in-law’s favorite magazines, and daily newspapers.

The old man’s favorite hobby is filling cryptic crosswords – I bought a 365-page puzzle booklet. A crossword puzzle a day, year round. I paid it all easily, with my Co-op Bank ATM card.

I saw once saw mother-in-law knit, by the fireplace. I asked my wife if we could buy her some knitting thread.

No, she says. She lost interest in that hobby.

“All she does is nag my dad, all day on Dolby Surround……”

I burst out laughing.

As you prepare to travel upcountry and other places for the festivities, there’s no need to carry cash around. That’s risky, and you’ll be more likely to spend on unnecessary stuff.

A Co-op Bank ATM Card or payment via MCo-op Cash App gives access to fast and secure payments at no extra cost.

Anything from fuel to travel and accommodation bookings or grocery shopping treats – anything is possible.

Merry Christmas. Bring thoughtful gifts!

About this writer:

Kibaki Muthamia

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