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Simple Gifts


This year for Christmas my family is getting off the gift-giving merry-go-round.
Oh, don’t worry, Heirs – you’ll still get your semi-annual delivery of underwear and socks and your annual Christmas Eve book. And Dirtman will get his yearly gift that I get to keep him safe as he trudges through the remote woods, which he will subsequently ignore, being too “manly” to be “safe,” at which point Heir 1 will lay claim to it. So at least Heir 1 will never be lost as he navigates the fierce jungle of the local Borders.
I made the decision last year at about the same time my sister-in-law Beth had come to the same conclusion. Never mind that we’re the only women in this family, as the official Christmas Shoppers in Residence, we have clout. We announced that 2006 was the last year of the Christmas Bonanza.
“You’re not going to make us do crafts again, are you?” Heir 2 moaned miserably. Homeschooled kids are pretty sick of crafts by the time they’re 12. While we homeschooled we had pretty much cornered the local market in Styrofoam and had the largest collection of paper towel and toilet paper center rolls in the state. Our most ambitious project was a scale model of the Parthenon, complete with a golden Athena in the center. It was never completed, though, because we all got sick of rolling typing paper around the towel rolls and Athena’s head kept coming off and eventually got chewed up by the dog.
“Why don’t we just not exchange,” my older brother Art suggested hopefully. Art can be found stalking the aisles of Target on Christmas Eve, grabbing anything that might remotely be connected to its recipient and grumbling about the time he is wasting. We try to be understanding of his busy schedule, what with all those TV Land marathons running all the time.
I pointed out that if there wasn’t some sort of gift exchange we would just be getting together to eat a ton of food which is basically what we do every other weekend of the year. At least if we add the mercenary practice of gift exchanging, it would seem more like Christmas.
It occurred to me last year that most of the stuff we were buying for each other was stuff we really didn’t need, but we exchanged anyway because. . . well . . . that’s what you do at Christmas. The worst of these are those prepackaged “gift sets,” usually gathered in one aisle in every department store and available only this time of year. Oh, you’ve gotten this stuff: two mugs, a couple packets of hot chocolate and enough cardboard packaging to ship a crystal chandelier; a few packets of microwave popcorn, a bowl that says “Popcorn!” and some glowing orange powder that’s supposed to make the world’s simplest snack “gourmet.”
Sometimes this all comes in a basket, but that’s normally reserved for the toiletry gift items – whole other department, just as useless. My grandmother, who used to be a magnet for this sort of offering, used to sigh after having opened ten baskets of powders, bath salts and cologne, “Apparently, even though I use your gifts, you all still think I stink.”
We’ve all given up trying to get clothing items for each other. No one likes to stand in return lines and apparently my family is the world’s biggest collection of lopsided mutants to ever attempt to fit into ready-to-wear. And buying clothes for teenage boys is just plain depressing.
So we end up exchanging CDs or DVDs, but between iTunes, Netflix and, for me at least, the public library, even this gift idea has become obsolete.
So Beth’s idea was this: we put everyone’s name into a hat and choose one person to buy a gift for. The gift, though, should be something that will make us all laugh: the proverbial Gag Gift.
Yes, yes, I know. We’re playing with dynamite, especially with four teenage boys contributing to the merriment.
“It will teach them how to make a joke without going over the line,” Beth suggested optimistically.
I remind her we spend 80 percent of our time beating the males in this family back over the line; that, in spite of that, we still end up not only over the line, but unable to follow the breadcrumb trail back to where the line is.
“Well, you monitor your kids and I’ll monitor mine,” she suggested.
Well, that’s not a problem. Only it’s not the kids I’m worried about.

Share  Posted by Jeanne Jackson at 11:48 AM | Permalink

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