This week, I choose...
4.) Describe a funny or favorite gift that you’ve gotten or have given.
When I dream about Christmas and family gatherings, I see perfectly wrapped packages, each selected with the utmost of care; a delicious meal; cousins, aunts and uncles greeting one another with hugs and kisses. When I arrive at the N family's Christmas Eve gathering, my reality is a far different...there are wrapped packages - not necessarily beautifully wrapped, there is food - a 6 foot burrito and oyster stew, and the cousins, aunts, and uncles are either greeted with a beer or "What the hell you been doin'?" (that's he PG version) How festive it that? Doesn't it just scream CHRISTMAS!?
Traditionally, when it was time for the gift exchange, Uncle Rocco would give each kid a silver dollar and tell them to “Stay on the straight and narrow.” (As if he had!). Then we would gather around the Christmas tree. In an attempt to prevent anyone from going broke buying presents for 50+ people, we had a rule: each family was to bring gifts for one other family. Well, that fell apart the year my aunt decided I did not need anything…explain that to an 8 year old. (yes, and that was Crazy Aunt M of the Chili Brie fame).
As we, the cousins, got older, the gift exchange wasn't working so well. In time, this tradition morphed and transformed until we were finally all able to come to an agreement...a white elephant exchange. Sounds simple...not if you are a member of my family!
Our white elephant's main rule was that the gift not be newly purchased. It could be new, but it had to be sitting-around-your-house-I-am-never-going-to-use-it-new. This worked for us. Of course there was trading..uh, stealing...of gifts, and we finally had to make up a specific rule for this as well. Oh you think I am kidding...on no less than three occasions, members of one family did not speak to members of another family for at least six months based upon the outcome of the gift exchange.
Along the way, gifts included some good, some bad, and some ugly. I once re-gifted Hilary Clinton's Book, It Takes A Village (I never read it and was not going to). The recipient was thrilled. So, see a thoughtful, useful (I guess) gift. Antique oil cans, old cameras, and boxes of hockey cards made their rounds, but then the game began to digress...or get really fun, depending on how you look at it. Over the next few years, the gifts became a mixture of half used toiletries, the contents of a junk drawer (I will admit that was me), and obscene T-shirts. Our little white elephant exchange had evolved into "Who could find the most useless or offensive gift?"
(not my family...I bought them)
As a prelude to the best/worst-gift-ever-given at the N's Family Christmas, one year the grand finale was the rusted car door of a 1970's VW Bug. What a useful item, eh? I actually do not even remember who "won" that, but it caused a great roar and uproar!
So then next year, there had to be something bigger and better...and more useless. That night we all gathered around the tree, a tower of gifts awaited us. There were big ones, medium ones, and small ones. We picked numbers to determine order (remember rules!), and were ready to rock-n-roll! I could hear my three cousins snickering every time anyone would touch Cousin A's gift. It seemed safe...it was small...no matter what was in there, it could be easily disposed of...again it was small...how bad could it be?
Coming to the end of the exchange, we discovered Crazy Aunt M was last. And lo and behold, the only gift left is Cousin A's. She thinks about it...she could steal someone's gift and risk a family feud, or just take the small one, end the game, and go home...
She picks the small gift, and right on cue we hear "Cluck, Cluck, Cluck" and a chicken races into the family room - no, we do not live in the country (this is L.A. baby!), no this was not a pet...yes this was the gift...a live chicken. All I can say it that at least it was alive.
Merry Clucking Christmas!
PS - OK, the gift was not from me, but close enough!
PSS - If you would like some background about
my warm and fuzzy idyllic family visit this post.