This is part 1 of a 2 part post. I have a nasty rant brewing for tomorrow about a relative who, shall we say, could use a bit of refinement in regards to gift giving and receiving. I had that mean post all ready to go when I noticed this on Frugalwoods:
Did you see the tank piston in the picture? After I saw it, I could barely read the rest of the post. I had to know more about it.
Mrs. Frugalwoods responded to my query in the comments, explaining that it was a Christmas gift for Mr. Frugalwoods. I had to know even more. The story about gift giving is a good one that makes a great counter-post to my Thursday unpleasantness. I’ll let Mrs. Frugalwoods take it from here.
The Frugalwoods Tank Piston
I once gave Mr. Frugalwoods a ‘70s-era Soviet T72 tank piston (used in Eastern Europe) for Christmas. And he loved it! We don’t exchange gifts for every holiday or anniversary, but this particular Christmas was early on in our dating career–we were still in college–and I remember really wanting to nail it and demonstrate my devotion. After all, nothing says love like a Cold War relic.
Why a tank piston? Well, why not! Mr. FW has a penchant for anything even remotely mechanical or technological. Plus, as a child of the ‘80s, he’s mildly obsessed with the history of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe generally (we actually took Russian language classes together a few years ago and dream of traveling to Russia). Thus, I knew I’d hit Christmas gift gold when I stumbled upon said tank piston at a flea market in our college town of Lawrence, Kansas.
I’m a proponent of shopping used for just about everything in life (underwear and pillows aside) and gifts are no exception. A flea market or resale shop, and even the side of the road, are virtual troves of untapped gift resources. Comrades, free yourselves from the constraints of consumerism! Non-consumers of the world unite; you have nothing to lose but your debt!
I had no clue what the tank piston was when I picked it up, but I knew it was a Mr. FW-type thing and, fortunately, the purveyor had included an identifying tag. I think it cost $20, which was well worth it. Mr. FW, of course, knew precisely what the tank piston was when he opened it and I felt like the best gift-giver in the world. I think he was pretty impressed with my insight and prowess.
You see, Mr. FW is a true Renaissance man (much like Mr. 1500) and his passions span everything from ham radio to astronomy to bread baking to woodworking and I’ve always encouraged him in these pursuits—the tank piston sort of embodies his diversity of interests. One of the primary reasons we’re planning to retire early to a homestead in the woods is to enable us both to explore and pursue our myriad hobbies.
The tank piston is now an integral part of the Frugalwoods home décor since I like to blend industrial steel with bright colors. Our house is an eclectic mix of retro oranges, yellows, and turquoises along with metals, wooden furniture, and unusual decorations (we have a huge aluminum valve handle hanging on our living room wall).
I will boast that Mr. FW is a superb gift giver as well—he’s perceptive, thoughtful, and seeks out things he knows I’ll appreciate. As frugal weirdos, neither of us is conventional in our tastes, nor do we buy into consumer culture, so it’s no easy feat finding frugal, unique gifts for one another. This is also one of the reasons we eschew traditional gift giving for every birthday, wedding anniversary, Christmas, veteran’s day, groundhog day… We typically discuss in advance whether or not we’ll exchange gifts so that we’re on the same page and know what to expect. Not cool to expect your partner to be a mind-reader and magically know when you’ll hope for a reciprocation gift. Personal finance sidebar–identical maxims hold true with your finances: clear expectations, shared goals, and communication always win.
In the same year as the tank piston, Mr. Frugalwoods presented me with a popcorn air popper, which we use to this day. It’s the frugalist, healthiest way to make a snack and he figured I’d love that combo embodied in one practical gift. I pretty much knew I was going to marry him when I opened that air popper. It’s a great symbol for our shared love of practical, frugal, simple, good living (and popcorn).
Thank you Mrs. Frugalwoods for the tale of the piston Christmas gift. I am totally in awe over it. If it were mine, I’d find a way to put it on top of the Christmas tree every year. I’d give it a name (Ivan or Boris perhaps). I’d let it accompany me on family vacations and take lots of pictures: “Here is Ivan at the Grand Canyon. And look, isn’t he beautiful under the Gateway Arch?”
OK, back to reality with two final thoughts:
- I love the Frugalwoods’ carefree, gift giving ways. Feeling forced to buy a gift is one of the things I detest about the holidays. However, giving someone something really meaningful or useful is a beautiful thing.
- My favorite line of this post was what Mrs. Frugalwoods had to say after receiving the popcorn machine. She completely deserves to have the last word:
I pretty much knew I was going to marry him when I opened that air popper.
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