by Rita Ciresi
After Christmas, I unwrapped his presents. The paper pictured a child in the manger, angels blowing trumpets, and a cornucopia that spilled out in cursive script Blessings Blessings Blessings.
I’m known in our house as the thrifty one. I reuse giftwrap from year to year. Collect soap slivers. Turn lotion and shampoo bottles upside down to coax out the last drop. But that day I ripped the angels off each box. Crumpled the Blessings. Left the child in the manger in shreds.
Inside the boxes were nestled the kind of gifts teenaged boys love (anything running on a lithium battery) and the mom-kind they merely tolerate (socks, scarves, sweaters, gloves). The last box held a green-and- black buffalo plaid shirt that reminded me of when we had flown cross-country to check out colleges. He had peered out the window at the alternating green and fallow fields below, then said, Guess I’ll miss you and Dad when I’m gone.
Reason for return? the packing slips asked. They wanted size, color, fit. Since there was no space to write the truth–that you can tell your only child to be careful more times than there are stars in the sky, but you cannot control the carelessness of others–I left the form blank.
I loaded the boxes into the car. What he would have called my Mothers Against Dunkin’ Donuts ribbon fluttered on the antenna when I slammed the trunk. At the UPS store, a boy around his age stood behind the counter–probably counting the hours, the minutes, until he could clock out and gun his engine home again.
As I set down the tower of boxes, he glanced at the return labels. Yawned. “Looks like nothing worked out.”
Rita Ciresi is author of the novels Bring Back My Body to Me, Pink Slip, Blue Italian, and Remind Me Again Why I Married You and the story collections Sometimes I Dream in Italian and Mother Rocket. She is director of creative writing at the University of South Florida.