Thursday, May. 23, 2024

There’s No Harm In Overgifting, Is There?

Christmas should be a time of giving. And who needs boundaries on giving?

Christmas Day started magically.
   
My 14-year-old jewel of a goddaughter, Jessica, was delighted with my present to her of a horse, and
she was riding him in the dressage ring with a billboard-sized smile on her face. I basked in the pride that only godmothers can know, and chatted with her mother, Fiona, at C. It had been one perfect Kodak moment after another.
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Christmas should be a time of giving. And who needs boundaries on giving?

Christmas Day started magically.
   
My 14-year-old jewel of a goddaughter, Jessica, was delighted with my present to her of a horse, and
she was riding him in the dressage ring with a billboard-sized smile on her face. I basked in the pride that only godmothers can know, and chatted with her mother, Fiona, at C. It had been one perfect Kodak moment after another.

And then, the present trotted out of the dressage arena at K, picked up a lovely 350-meters-per-minute canter and floated over the 3’6″ pasture fence. Then, he moved up to about 400 mpm and took off across the hay field, jumping a 3’3″ coop topped with two rails into a cow pasture.

Jessica gave a hearty thumbs-up wave as she landed. Fiona shrieked. I screamed. And the Kodak moments dissolved into a million pixels.

Needless to say, we were in hot pursuit in Fiona’s prehistoric Jeep in less than a minute, but Jessica— jumping from field to field—was already out of sight. Fiona, distraught mother that she was, immediately started ranting:

“UOOO-OH-VUR-GIF-TED! That %$#@& PRESENT is galloping away with your goddaughter because YOU can’t stop overgifting. Uooo – r – a – terr – a – bel – oh – vur – gif– tur!!! Just because she waved doesn’t make it alright! You overgifted AGAIN!”

I “overgifted?” What was overgifting? I’d never heard of overgifting. I knew what “regifting” meant after that Seinfeld episode. Regifting was in Wikipedia. But overgifting? Overgifting was unexplored
territory.

Was it giving too many gifts at one time? Gifts that were too expensive? Too big? I had been guilty of all those things over the years by taking my role as godmother quite seriously and spoiling Jessica accordingly. But Fiona made it sound horrible. I was now an “overgifter.”

As we bounced across a pasture of frozen hummocks and Grand Canyon-deep cow paths in pursuit of Jessica, I reviewed past Christmases.

There was the year that I sent a life-size plush Shetland, so that she could practice her emergency dismount technique in case of a runaway during leadline classes. The year that she was into sleeping in the stall with her pony, I had a tromp l’oeil artist redecorate her room to exactly match her pony’s stall, complete with straw covering the baseboards.

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Another year, I got all the Breyer horses and all the tack, clothes, stable supplies, barns, trucks, trailers, and jump courses made for them and their plastic fantastic riders. Jessica and her Pony Club cronies staged a Winter Equestrian Festival with enough participants left over to put on Upperville and Rolex.
Overgifting was never mentioned then. Not a whisper of it.

Fiona lay on the horn to scatter some cows, stopped the Jeep, and balanced on the seat to get a closer look at Jessica through her binoculars. “Well, she’s got a beautiful seat; that last fence was perfect, even with
that overgift of a dressage saddle,” she commented.

“But you were the one who hinted that she wanted a dressage saddle,” I cried in vain protest. “You said Jessica had stopped hunting on Sundays to take lessons and was well on her way to becoming a dressage princess. I got her a faux leather saddle. How can faux leather qualify as an overgift?”

I got a harrumphed “It was an overgift,” in reply.

Of course, it was also Fiona who had dropped the hint about Jessica getting the current present that she was now also calling an “overgift.” She said Jessica was going to need a new horse in the spring.

Since I knew just the horse—a middle-aged, chrome-plated eventer who could crank out the first level tests Jessica was doing with three legs tied behind his tail—I immediately bought him. I plotted to have Jessica find him in a red-ribboned stall when she came out to feed on Christmas morning. Then I ordered all the stocking stuffers—turnout rug, blanket, bridle, polos—all the things that make a horse your own. The tack shop, Internet and I had never been closer. How could so much godmotherly fun result in an overgift?

My mulling came to a halt as Fiona lurched into a field with a big frozen pond and, in the distance, a hill with a stone wall near the top. She accelerated across the pond, doing a spiral sequence of high technical and artistic merit, and headed to the hill, which got bigger and steeper the closer we got.

Shifting into what was left of third gear, she flattened the gas pedal, then downshifted hard again as we began to climb. Inspired by impossibly lurid threats, the Jeep crawled to a flat spot a few yards in front of the stone wall.

A terrifying glint shone in Fiona’s eye as she spied a gap in the stone wall—a steep bank where parts of the wall had collapsed. She gunned the engine and flew at it. We landed astride it with wheels spinning.

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In the relative peace of Fiona throwing herself against the steering wheel to rock the Jeep onto its front wheels to pull us free—a plan more rooted in optimism than common sense—I got out to look for Jessica. There she was, in the field into which we were trying to scale our way.

“Don’t just stand there. Rock it!” cried Fiona in her zeal. “And push hard when it tips forward!”

Obediently, I stood behind the Jeep and grabbed on, pulling the back of the Jeep down as far as I could. But when gravity took it forward and up, I was left hanging about two feet off the ground and couldn’t push against anything but air.

Being too shamed by my overgifting to admit this to Fiona, I rocked and air-kicked until the front wheels finally struck. The Jeep wheezed off as Jessica rode up.

“Did you see us?” she cried. “I just knew he wanted to jump. It was like,  ‘tele-pathy.’ I forgot how much fun jumping was! Did you see that first coop? Did he jump it great or what? Thank you so much for my Christmas present! He is so cool!

“I’m gonna event him. We’ll clean up. I’ll win the dressage every time! Boy, it was so great that you followed me. This is so great. I’m so excited! Aren’t you excited Mom? This is the BEST PRESENT EVER! I’m gonna call him that.” All of this and more came out in one breathless rush.

I looked at Fiona, who was quickly turning a stunning shade of mauve. I looked at Jessica and the present, both a little out of breath but grinning ear to ear. I was not guilty of a heinous act of overgifting. I was merely guilty of spoiling my goddaughter with “the best present ever.” Where was the crime in that?

A list of future presents started to form in my mind—the cross-country saddle, the show-jumping saddle, the color-coordinated shirts and boots and saddlepads…

Bunny O’Connell

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