Gifting East: Christmas Edition (#311)

Shopping for anyone from a different culture is tricky.

Shopping for your in-laws is tough.

Shopping for your Chinese-American in-laws?

You’re fucked worse than The Martian.

I’ve written before about how difficult it was to get gifts for Andy’s parents. The nicer the gift, the more Sunny was likely to return it, insisting that we should save our money. She wouldn’t accept an exchange or a credit, either. Sunny would demand that some poor clerk dig up our original credit card number and return it on our credit card.

And if the beleaguered cashier couldn’t find our credit card number? Sunny would call Andy and ask him for it.

We sent flowers next. Sunny complained that they were expensive and didn’t last.

Andy sent her live plants like orchids.

Those were acceptable. Or so we thought.

Then we found out that Sunny was refusing delivery of the plants.

We gave up on plants. Once Baby D was born, I sent baby pictures, often in pretty frames. Sometimes I added preschool artwork. When he was old enough, I made sure he wrote notes on the most expensive, elaborate cards I could find.

Delivery was never refused on those, at least.


A few weeks ago, I reminded Andy that he needed to send his mother a Christmas gift. “Especially this year. She’s all alone. No one can even visit her because of COVID.”

“Don’t we have any school photos of Dashiell?”

“The kid didn’t have any school, how the hell would we get pictures?!”

“Couldn’t we get a photographer—”

“It’s too late, and a photo shoot is too risky anyway. Maybe a Harry & David basket of pears and apples since she doesn’t like sweets?” I suggested.

“Can’t send fruit to Hawaii.”

“What about a cheese and meat basket?”

“Makes her gassy.”

“Wait! She drinks wine, right? You can send wine through Harry & David now!”

“Yeah, but you can’t send wine to Hawaii, honey.”

“Ugh, you can’t send ANYTHING good to Hawaii. But…what if we got it delivered from a local liquor place? Remember how my brother just sent you that special bourbon through that Drizly on-demand liquor service? Can you do that?!”

Andy whipped out his phone and scrolled for a few tense minutes before shaking his head. “Doesn’t extend to Hawaii.”

“Surely now, with COVID and people quarantining, especially in Hawaii, surely SOMEONE has created an alcohol delivery service for Honolulu at least. Keep searching!”

Andy did. He searched for days, checked reviews, and made phone calls. Eventually he found a service called Kakaako Wine that not only delivered wine, they even added “local delicacies” and prettied the booze up in a gift basket.

Andy placed his order a few days ago. Then he sweated and fretted: “What if she doesn’t like it? What if…she refuses delivery?!”

“Call her,” I told him. “Call her and tell her you are sending a basket and they’ve already charged you!”

I don’t know if he called her or not. But here’s the text I got December 23rd:


Published by

Autumn Ashbough

WF writing about the humorous perils of life with Chinese-American significant other.

18 thoughts on “Gifting East: Christmas Edition (#311)”

    1. I am sure your way would be healthier. I forgot to nag Andy before her birthday this year and she didn’t even get a card! Felt pretty awful about that, especially since she’s all alone.

      So I wanted to make sure she got SOMETHING at Christmas. I told Andy we should FaceTime her at dinner and she can do a toast with us with her wine. Usually Andy’s brother or sister visit her over the holiday.

  1. She would be truly crazy to turn down free, home-delivered wine in 2020. (Of course this comes from someone living in a country where alcohol sales have been banned multiple times this year.)

  2. I guess you could say this year’s gift was a grape idea!

    I applaud you (really Andy, I guess) for trying every year. She sounds like a very tough woman to shop for…and that’s putting it mildly.

  3. Awww what a great Christmas success!! I love the line “tell her we already charged for the wine so she has to accept it!” lol. So Asian.

    My mom also does similar to the above — but the stickler is, if you don’t get her anything at all she’ll complain! It’s a lose-lose situation, but I guess it’s better to give than not.

    Hope you had a Merry Christmas!

  4. Some people are almost impossible to buy for–my second daughter for one. Also my older grandson. Of my three daughters, only one likes to receive and give gifts. This year we gave each other contributions to charity.

  5. Glad she took it, hehe. My husband’s grandma is the same, every time we buy her anything, even if it’s just fruit or a snack, she asks how much it was and says we shouldn’t be spending money on her. She thinks everything is very expensive these days (guess her mind is still in the 50s…).

  6. So much effort on Andy’s part for a gift for your MIL. Glad she accepted…and hope she genuinely accepted. I read in the earlier comments that she couldn’t drink it for now…. Giving gifts to my parents is impossible. They always insist, no gifts at all as it is a waste of money and energy going to the shops and complain about shipping fees – everything is too expensive. They really are just happy when me and the fam show up for Christmas lunch, Chinese New Year lunch, basically show up to all the big significant gatherings lol.

    1. Yes, I suppose it would be easier to just show up if we lived closer! Instead, we just go out all the time when she’s here.

      LOL, your parents sound just like Andy’s when it comes to gifts.

If you liked this, let the white girl know!