I bought a Christmas present the other day – some smelly pens for Betty. I hid them in the box of shoes I never wear, in my wardrobe. As I did I thought, you’ll forget you bought those, you will, and find them here next year. And it’ll be too late then because she won’t be interested in colouring in anymore.
I know this because I recently found, in the same wardrobe, the Shackleton’s Journey book I bought for Stanley this time last year. It’s one of those tasteful gifts you buy to feel like a good parent, not really for your child at all, who would much rather you got him the plastic World of Warriors folder from the Co-op. But last year I might have at least got him to glance at it. This year I know I’ll be lucky to make eye contact with him on Christmas Day. He’ll be head-down in Terraria.
Standing there with my face in the wardrobe that keeps on giving, wondering if it would be a bit Sleeping with the Enemy to turn all the coathangers around the same way, it occurred to me that I should really have a present drawer by now. I need a bounteous drawer under the bed in the spare room, like all my friends’ mums had in the 80s, full of skipping ropes and Play-doh, and other gifts that kids love. (My mum never had one – she had wardrobes. I once found a Christmas pudding sweating away in a wardrobe, in the conservatory, in August. This was my role model.)
Still, I’m a grown woman now. I can break this cycle of wardrobe weirdness. I’m going to get a present drawer and fill it with all the tasteful gifts I see when I’m out and about, supporting the local retailers on my independent high street. Then I’ll always be ready with handy gifts for birthday parties, and won’t find smelly pens and educational books in wardrobes, five years after they were likely to be mildly appreciated.
Sadly the story sort of ends here, in that I quickly realised that, to have a present drawer, you need spare furniture lying around, with drawers in it. Not furniture you’ve had to build in crisis conditions just to contain the virus that is your possessions. You need a spare room that isn’t also a child’s bedroom. And a bed with storage underneath it, not the Ikea futon you’ve had since the mid-90s.
There’s probably a big economics pie-chart somewhere, involving standard of living and cost of inflation and blah and loo-lah, that explains why I haven’t got a present drawer. What with modern life being rubbish and all, it makes sense that no-one has things like present drawers any more, since they involve spare time and disposable income. Feminism may also have a hand in its decline. Most of us are far too reconstructed for anything so deeply rooted in the darkness of domestic slavery. And no man is ever going to stockpile My Little Pony Styling Heads in the spare room. Saying that, I’m not even sure that some of my friends – the ones who send thank-you cards, and never run out of loo roll or chopped tomatoes – don’t have a present drawer. Some of them definitely have spare rooms. The sly dogs.
Whatever the explanation, the concept isn’t limited to present drawers. There are plenty of other domestic things I’ve a hunch I should be doing by now, but definitely am not. These include, but are not limited to:
- Batch-cooking and freezing meals. Also owning a microwave, so meals can be taken out and eaten at convenient times, not just thrown away after four years on ice.
- Shopping around and buying food because it is good and I want to eat it, not because it has nice packaging in Farrow & Ball shades.
- Learning what the laundry-care labels mean. WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
- Remembering to take re-usable bags to the supermarket and not buying new ones every time. Current re-usable bag budget for October = £37
- Finally accepting that the dishwasher does not magically disappear leftovers, and coffee granules can’t go down the sink. Gutting.
- Not only owning a steam mop, but knowing how it works. So when the cleaning lady asks, I can pretend I sometimes get it out of my own free will.
Anyway if someone could remind me about those pens in the shoe box nearer the time, I’d be most grateful.