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September 15, 2002: Happy 35th, Mom and Dad

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Years ago, when my older sister and her husband had only been married a year, she made the mistake of mentioning to my mom that her in-laws gave them an anniversary present. There are differing versions of exactly how the information about the anniversary gift was conveyed (depending on if you ask my mom or my sister), and I haven't a clue what it was, but the important thing about all this is that my parents decided that they ought to start giving my older sister and her husband an anniversary gift.

Years ago when we lived in Alaska, there was another couple who were great friends with my parents. For whatever reason, when they and we moved to different states, each Christmas my mom and dad did their best to find the tackiest, silliest present to send them - things like the little machine that scrambles the egg inside the shell, or the coffee table book on Princess Diana's wedding. This particular tradition went on for years and years, but eventually the friends drifted away. Knowing this about my parents' sense of humor when it comes to gifts ought to help explain what happened next.

Over the years, my older sister and her husband have received from my parents such lovely gems as a coffee table book on power boating, a truly hideous plastic bowl with a large bunch of tacky plastic grapes inside, and one thing that turned out to be actually pretty neat - an odd little bird sculpture with tiny little plates that swivel around its neck. We're none of us sure exactly what it is, but it's cool all the same. These charming gifts have all been found at garage sales or thrift stores or craft bazaars, and are given and received in the spirit in which they are intended - much amusement.

When my little sister got married, they were inducted immediately into the anniversary gift scheme, although unlike my older sister, little sis gets a theme gift each year - a string of some kind of tacky lights. I know they have a string of fish, and I believe at least one string of chili peppers. I'm sure eventually they'll have a rather impressive selection.

When we got married last year, I suggested that perhaps the tradition could just remain with my two sisters, but of course my mom would have none of that. There have been mutters of possible themes for us (cutesy dog shtick was one suggestion; another was tacky virgin Mary statuary), but in July on our first anniversary, we opened the box to find a Wyoming state commemorative plate. So I guess for the next 52 years at least, we'll be getting a new commemorative state plate each year in July.

It was my little sister who decided that turn-about was fair play. The first year they sent my parents an urn (yes, a brass urn that actually had a bit of ash in it, so it must have at one point been…occupied). As far as I know my older sister and her husband have never reciprocated the gifts, but little sister continues and has had great fun finding equally lovely things (my favorite so far was the fish-shaped sprinkler head). Naturally, Richard and I knew that we would have to reciprocate as well, especially once the perfect gift fell into our laps.

Back in January when we had our post-holiday party, we had a white elephant gift exchange and ended up with what has got to be one of the most hideously ornately tacky picture frames in existence. It's ceramic, with ornate curlicues, ribbons, etc. sculpted around each of the six tiny little windows. So last night Richard and I sat at our respective computers and hastily cropped digital photos. And into each of the picture windows we put a photo of one of their grandchildren, figuring rightly that this way they can't just dump the frame on the way home; they have to at least go through the effort of removing the pictures first. We're thinking next year we'll have to look for one of those cheesy frames surrounded by glued-on seashells. Or perhaps the ones lined with faux fur. The possibilities are endless! Dad says they'll all look lovely on the garage wall. We're still trying to figure out just where we can 'display' our commemorative state plate collection.

Some families may send each other cards on their anniversaries. Some families may take each other out for dinner. I can't help but think that those other families simply lack imagination. Poor people. They don't know what they're missing.

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