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The Thought That Counts? A Cautionary Tale on Christmas Present Buying

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When I was five I asked for a Care Bear for Christmas. Not just any Care Bear, I wanted the one with the brooding rain cloud on its belly and slightly scornful face. The one with the mildly misanthropic stare. The one they called Grumpy Bear, but whom I felt was probably just misunderstood. Early December 1984 and I'm watching my mother scurry through the gate of our house from behind the safety of a starched net curtain. She is carrying a Woolworths bag. From out of the top, a limp blue limb is just about visible. Cue prohibited bed jumping, His Grumpiness was mine!

When Christmas morning arrived, I probed the snow flecked wrapping paper with childhood fingers. My heart races as I tear at the tightly wrapped parcel securely fastened at the corners with fancy foil tape. My mother reaches for the Kodak Instamatic as I unleash the beast from its plastic prison. I stare into its beady eyes. One of which appears to be falling down the side of his face. My mother snaps away and I fix a false smile as my eyes dart over the bear, taking in its features. Everything appears to be in place, the sneering expression, the rain cloud tum, but something is different. Something is wrong. Suddenly the chocolate coin drops. The bear is a fake. A polyester imposter. A knitted nightmare only an old person would have the audacity and spare time to make. But the Woolworths bag? Was this a ruse? I turn the bear over, examining its backside intently. As any canny five year old in the eighties would tell you, the hallmark of a real Care Bear is the heart it had tattooed on its backside. But there was no heart to be found, just a suspicious splodge of red that looked very much like someone had an accident with a sharpened knitting needle. Oh, if only they had.

Mother coughs nervously, rearranging a box of mint Matchmakers on the sideboard. I place the bear back into its plastic bag and tie a very tight knot, hoping it might suffocate the crocheted cretin to death. 'So does my little grumpy bear love her Grumpy Bear?' Mother asks, passing me my fifth Selection box.

She may as well have sent me out into the playground in Umbro trainers and a NAFFCO 54 jacket with a sign hanging round my neck declaring me a 'Joey'. I demand a cheaply knocked up factory line original. I want massed produced here and I want it now. Of course I didn't actually utter any of this, although to be honest, I wish I had. Maybe then I wouldn't feel the need to dedicate a whole blog post about it over 20 years later. Mother has asked for some leather gloves this year. So I'm going to knit her some fingerless mittens. Well, it's the thought that counts, right?