Regifters give and give some more

Hello, my name is Julia Cousineau and I am a regifter.

It began two years ago. A friend and I were going through my house selecting items for the church's annual rummage sale.

"Hey, look at this cute thing," my friend said. It was a tiny white candy dish with a lid and tiny purple flowers around the rim. It even contained its original bag of wrapped candies.

"I know someone in my book club who'd love it," she went on.

An innocent candy dish, a casual remark and I was hooked. The more articles we uncovered, the more people we found who would love this vase or that lotion set.

I discovered a trove of goodies that would save buying gifts for years to come. Every item was swiftly categorized according to regift potential, recipient and occasion.

I started out slowly. A regift for a birthday here, a regift for an anniversary there as I gifted my way toward the yearly binge –– Christmas.

Work was a great place to accumulate loot. At one company drawing I won a Hickory Farms snack pack. My boss commented, "Oooh, I wanted that." I whispered to the lady next to me, "Maybe she'll get it for Christmas." The lady looked at me with disdain and reprimanded me with, "Oh, Julia." Yeah, like she'd never done it.

During gift dry spells, I would purchase items from co-workers' kids selling stuff for school fund raisers, bring the items home and say I'd won them so I could regift and still appear I wasn't spending money. This was when I realized it had become an all-consuming sickness. It frightened me how automatically I categorized and charted who gave me what and when and for which occasion so I didn't break the rule of regifting etiquette: Giving someone a gift they've recently given you!

I'm sure all you fellow regifters can relate. I've created diagrams more intricate than astrological charts. The anxiety of keeping it all straight, living with the fear that one day I would give someone a gift they'd just given me, became unbearable.

With each leaf that fell in October I became increasingly antsy. The craving abated as the gifts rolled in, culminating in a regift high on Dec. 25.

January, February, March. I went through serious withdrawal and scrounged in our yearly giveaway box for a few Valentine/President's Day trinkets I could regift to someone –– anyone!

As the New Year approached, I made a vow to live by the following six-step program:

1. I admitted I was powerless over regifting, that it and my life had become unmanageable. (Actually, I was giddy over how well I managed it.)

2. I came to believe that a power greater than myself could restore me to sanity –– the Dollar Tree stores.

3. I made a searching and fearless moral inventory of myself. (I found a few worse habits than regifting, plus more items I could regift.)

4. I admitted to myself and to another human being the exact nature of my wrongs. (Okay, so far I've only told a closet full of gifts.)

5. I continue to take personal inventory, and when I'm wrong promptly admit it.

6. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, I tried to carry this message to regifters and to practice these principles in all my affairs.

I keep busy constructing homemade presents everyone shuns and the recipients can't even regift. As for carrying this message to my friend, by the sounds of her latest e-mail I don't hold out much hope: “While very sweet, this one guy here, Randy, gave me a Christmas present again this year –– an Elmer Fudd Chia Head (total regift gift).”

Julia Cousineau, a humor writer, works in Federal Way by day and writes at her Tacoma home by night.

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