There cannot be too many children who have more t-shirts than R. I considered illustrating this post with a picture but the t-shirts are crammed in so tight on her shelf and the overall effect is so chaotic that I am frankly embarrassed. The cause of this state of affairs is really not that R has benefited from so many hand-me-downs from EB, although there are a few. And its not that she isn’t growing. She is, albeit that she is very undersized for a nearly-nine-year-old. Its not that she needs them all (she does need more than EB, who could go on holiday for a fortnight with a couple of t-shirts and a pair of shorts). No, the real reason is that R is so hard to buy presents for.
G’s mum is, to my mind, the archetypal German Oma. She loves to spoil the children. She loves to feed them Kuchen and Haribo. She loves to buy them presents. F and EB were easy to buy for when they were younger: Lego for F, felt tip pens and notebooks for EB. Oma has, understandably, always found R very difficult to buy for. R enjoys books but she has never enjoyed German children’s books. The picture books that Oma bought for R were curiously kitsch and joyless and R didn’t like them at all. It wasn’t Oma’s fault: G and I looked in the bookshops too but we couldn’t find anything either. (R liked the music better: we listened to Nena’s – she of the 99 red balloons – Unser Apfelhaus a lot when she was little and she still enjoys Donikkl’s Fleigerleid.) Toys, though, are tricky because its so very difficult for R to play with them. This is not to say that she doesn’t appreciate them when she gets them. For years, R would stare pointedly at Sylvanian Families whenever we were in a toy shop. We eventually bought her a couple of figures which sat on the window sill next to her bed. We weren’t sure that she ever noticed them. EB was quite sure that she didn’t. One day, EB told R that they should share the figures and took one away to play with it. R starting screaming in fury and didn’t stop until EB returned the little animals to their place on the window sill. Oma remains doubtful about this, however, and so every time a parcel arrives for the children, she includes another t-shirt for R. Or possibly three.
R has been invited to a party on Sunday. Three of the little girls from R’s (special) school are celebrating their birthday. I know the girls only slightly. I really have no idea what they enjoy and I don’t want to buy presents that they would find no use for. Its so much more complicated than buying for one of EB’s friends. Its so much harder to get right. I had half an hour between finishing work and picking up R today to find the presents. I found myself in H&M looking at the t-shirts. So I bought them each a hat.