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Read books before giving them as gifts

They say it is the thought that counts.

Some people are really good gift-givers, have a knack for knowing just the right thing to give someone. That's usually not me. No matter how I try, it never seems to come out quite right.

For once, though, I was sure I had gotten it right. November of this year, just a few weeks ago. The perfect gift for my mother's birthday. A book.

Not just any ordinary book -- a journal with guided lists to spark her to jot down facts about her life, her dreams, her unique life experiences. She loves telling stories about growing up, why not encourage her to write things down -- her greatest accomplishments, favorite foods and what not -- so she can share them with her children and grandchildren and generations to come? "Listography: My life in lists." That was the name of the book. My most perfectly perfect gift.

I couldn't wait to give it to her.

There we all were, at last. Gathered around the table at the restaurant. Children. Grandchildren. Even my nephew's girlfriend. All there to celebrate the joyous day of mama's birth 71 years ago. I was so excited, I urged her to open my present first.

She opened it and, truly, her eyes lit up. She loved it! Oh, she really loved it! She even started reading the "lists" out loud for the whole table to hear.

"List your favorite television shows," she said, and turned a page. "List the games you liked to play as a child," she read and smiled. "This will be so fun," she admitted, and I was truly happy. Ahhh. I was a good daughter.

"List your favorite movies," she went on. I looked around. They were all jealous they hadn't gotten her this, I could tell. Then... it happened.

"List the strangest places you have ever... Oh, my!" mama exclaimed and her eyes got as big as saucers. What?? What was that? I leaned over and peered at the page she had been reading. Oh... my... God.

My sisters nearly fell out of their chairs laughing.

"It's OK. I'm sure it's just the one," my mother consoled me. "Look at the next page... see... list the countries you have visited." She smiled. "List the places you have lived. List your most prized accomplishments... List the people you would like to have... Oh my!"

Oh... my... God!

"Mandy! I can't believe you would give our mother such a thing!" my oldest sister exclaimed. At her age, I was worried she might wet her pants she was laughing so hard.

My mother told them to leave me alone. I didn't know, she said.

"You didn't know, did you?" she whispered to me. No, I didn't know. I swear didn't know!

"It's fine," Mama said. "Look... List your favorite childhood memories... List the worst times you got in trouble when you were growing up... Oh, that's funny... List your favorite foods... List your most exotic se... Oh, my!"

That was it! I ripped the book from mama's hands and threw it under my chair.

"I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry...Open another present. Open someone else's!" I pleaded. They showed no mercy. They were laughing hysterically. I wanted to cry. Mama patted my shoulder lovingly and unwrapped my sister's gift.

A book about Southern women and faith. Just great. I give Mama porno, she gives Mama a book about Jesus.

"It's OK, baby, really it is," Mama turned to me and said lovingly. "I love my book. I'll just skip over those pages." She scooped it up off the floor and put it in her purse so, I'm guessing, the grandchildren wouldn't get a hold of the smut magazine their mother and aunt had given her. There goes my chance at being the favorite child.

My sister handed me her cell phone. It was our brother, all the way in Tennessee. Great news travels fast.

"Good Lord, Mandy! I can't wait to see what you get her for Christmas!" He was rolling on the floor, I was sure of it.

They say it is the thought that counts. I think... no, I know... that from now on I will actually READ a book I'm going to give my mother before I actually give it to her. That, or give her something I know is safe.

Like a Bible.

Merry Christmas, Mama.