I travel quite a bit for work and each time I do, I have to stress over what to buy home, for the kids, for the wife, for my mom who helps to look after the children (and sometimes the wife helps too, if she's not with me).
It has become such a thing that the first thing my children say when they see me drag my weary, jet-lagged body home from the airport is not "Welcome home, O Head of Our Household! Allow us to massage your tired feet and prepare your milk bath."
No, their first words are usually, "Papa! You are home! What did you buy for us this time?"
I have since tried to manage expectations. I would say, "Papa may not be able to buy anything for this work trip because the trip is a busy one." Then guilt overcomes me at the airport and I frantically try to look for something, anything, for them.
They are not demanding children, don't get me wrong. They don't cry or fuss if I am home empty-handed and I am thankful for that. But they do try their luck and ask. And I am one of those fathers who grew up with old school parents who didn't buy stuff back from (airline employee-subsidized) travels because we were not that well-off to begin with (not that we are that well-off now either). So there is a natural inclination to want to give my own kids what I didn't get when I was young. Like every possible Iron Man under the sun.
Yes, Iron Man, especially the latest installment. I watched the Iron Man 3 trailer and thought to myself, you bastards, you created merchandising options that will haunt toy lovers and fathers of toy lovers for a long long time. And possibly place us in a lifetime of debt too.
I mean, really? The Mk 42? And all the other models between Mk 7 and that one? How many Iron Men do you expect us to buy? Did you think we were Tony Stark too, Marvel?
Good thing we ran out of space in the flat, so I have a stronger reason to not to buy toys for myself and the kids.
The wife has gotten used to me traveling for work, without her, and she doesn't ask for much, beyond the occasional bottle of duty-free wine and maybe a Pandora charm to add to her bracelet. But this time, it wasn't just any old country I was traveling to, it was Italy. It was Rome.
Her eyes twinkled when she asked, "Maybe you can pick up something for me when you're in Rome…"
I asked, "What would you like?"
"You know lah, starts with a P…"
I blame the Meryl Streep movie completely for making that P brand such a big deal. Who can resist the call of the Italian Factory Outlet store? Certainly not the busloads of Chinese tourists I had to fight off to hunt for a gift for my wife and mother of my children.
"Don't need lah," she said over the phone when I Skyped her from Rome. "I was only kidding lah."
I didn't stay married all these years without understanding Wife Code. Besides, I wanted to get her something nice anyway. She is normally such a stirling model of a frugal Hakka wife back home and can hardly bring herself to buy anything expensive.
Let's just say when I saw what the DISCOUNTED prices of the famed Italian brand were at the outlet, I started to wonder what kind of elite cows they used to make the handbags and wallets.
I managed to get her the "something Italian with the letter P" in the end. And something for nice for Mom too. It will mean putting off big personal purchases for a while, like the Hot Toys Iron Man 3 "Power Pose Red Snapper" 1/6th scale Collectible Figurine, with 20 points of articulation (*a single tear drops down my left cheek*). But my wife, she is worth it.
And I need to store brownie points for the next time I want to buy a folding bicycle or a premium camera lens anyway.