(REDO of previous story: “Santahatesme Support Group”)
I am off for two weeks of exquisite holiday fun with my precious family, and everything WAS going along swimmingly until the kitchen sink turned into a demon. In the midst of our perfect-picture holiday of “making spirits bright,” my garbage disposal imploded and what most people would try to cure with one bottle of Drano, I, “The Chocolate Lucille Ball,” tried to remedy with three bottles. It is 3:00 a.m., and after fighting the fear of a flooded kitchen all night, the sink is backed up, the dishwasher is busted, and noxious Drano fumes are at orange WMD level throughout the house, causing everyone from WW to the dog (“Wednesday Adams”) to run for the nearest exit, gasping for air. The “24hour-We-Come-Anytime Roto-Rooter” is on its way (I’ll believe that when I see it), and my family is being evacuated for the day to the Shrek Ice Show to save their lungs and eyeballs.
Sigh! No matter how hard I try for perfection during the holidays, “pooh-pooh always occurs!” So while I’m waiting for a plumber who promises to arrive any minute (can the Greek Chorus sing: “money, money, money, mon-ey—MONEY!”), I thought I’d retool a previous blog I’d written regarding the “worst Christmas gifts ever” (an exploding garbage disposal most definitely qualifies) to get my mind off the $1,000 plumbing bill that is sure to also be my Christmas present from Santa as I try to avoid eye-contact with my groggy, pissed-off family for almost inadvertently poisoning them so close to Christmas . Enjoy!
image courtesy of www.backgroundpictures.org
Do you know what I’ve discovered? Even though it has been over five decades of me giving and receiving Christmas gifts, I am still in a state of shock at some of the gifts I’ve gotten from people. The one that best comes to mind is the one I got from my mother-in-law at the beginning of my marriage (can you say, she hates me!) that passive-aggressively declared to any and all who were watching: “I’m smiling on the outside when I tell everyone that I have a new daughter-in-law, but I am pissed as hell on the inside that she is “Colored” (yep—used that word to describe me until the day she died)—”why me, God, why?”
My mother-in-law took utmost pride in the fact she had official papers from the Daughters of the American Revolution, and that she was a direct descendent of Governor Bradford of the Mayflower. She didn’t have a lot of money but at least she had her lineage, her pride, and her whiteness until her first-born son (the one she just knew would be president someday) came home one Christmas and said: “I’m in love with a beautiful ebony queen: Surprise, surprise, surprise!”
During the few short years “Mom” deigned to speak to her son and me for sullying that lineage, most of her gifts went straight to the garbage from the postman’s hands and didn’t even rate for the destitute because they were usually so awful that the homeless wouldn’t even accept them. But one Christmas there was one present that my husband (WW) and I hung in the hall of shame as the “worst gift” ever, under the sign: “Oh no, she didn’t!” I hadn’t thought of the gift in question for years until the other day when I took a nap after too much brandy in my eggnog moose ears, and I dreamt about a Santa’s Support Group for “weird-gift survivors.”
Age Appropriate Gifts|image by Glenn McCoy
Santa: Welcome, one and all! As you all may know, except that little guy and his wife sitting in the back from the lost tribe of the Amazon, my name is Santa Claus, formerly known as St. Nick, and I “do” presents. I invited you all to drop by to informally start a “weird Christmas gift support group” because, frankly, I’ve gotten tired of the complaints from all the “non-believers” in the blogosphere. Ever since I started my own Facebook page, it has been inundated with complaints about weird gifts you thought I had something to do with. I’m here to first and foremost declare my innocence regarding inappropriate gifts, and to ask you to reconsider believing in me. Santa does not choose the gifts—he just delivers, and Santa never wanted to be confused with God, he just wanted to help out a bit. Okay? Also, I do feel your pain because last year one of my elves gave me a gift certificate to Weight Watchers along with a Gillette razor. Ho-ho-ho! Obviously, they don’t know me at all. Having said that, I understand that there are some real grievances amongst you and being the compassionate character that I am, I thought I’d let you get them off your chest and maybe you’d cut me some slack in the belief department.
Hum, how about our consummate skeptic, “Eleanor, the blogger?” Why don’t you come up to the front and tell us your story since you’re the one who started all the brouhaha on my Facebook page with the petition against “false gods who promise but don’t deliver.”
The Blogger: Why me? You know I’ve never believed in you. Even when I was a little girl, I agreed with Dick Gregory that “I never believed in Santa Claus because I knew no white dude would come into my neighborhood after dark.” And you never did! I didn’t start getting weird gifts as opposed to no gifts until I married into my husband’s family because before that, you never showed up, fat boy.
Santa: Uh, well . . . yeah, my credibility does break down when it comes to poor kids of every creed and color getting their wishes granted in the modern world. I’m working on that.
The Blogger: You think—and what about Jewish and Muslim kids? When you were St. Nicholas, you really had your “game on” servicing one village. But as soon as you tried to go Global, you blew it.
Santa: Okay, okay, okay, let’s tackle one subject at a time. Group: please welcome Eleanor, the Blogger and obvious childhood skeptic.
The Group: Hi, Eleanor the Blogger—welcome to ‘Santahatesme support group!’ What’s your weirdest Christmas gift?
The Blogger: The ol’ bait and switch (make the world think you’re generous with the announcement of a gift but then renege or switch out the original announcement of a cheaper gift).
Image from esquire.com
The Blogger: My downhill weird-gift spiral started one Christmas when I first married WW (“White and Wonderful”) with what I call the “bait and switch” gift. My mother-in-law was the queen of look at me being generous and then you’d never get the gift or she’d take it back, but I didn’t know it until my sister-in-law gave her a silk flower arrangement that had been commissioned by an artist friend of hers to send to me for Christmas that first year of my marriage. It was to be a house-warming present, and since my mother-in-law had volunteered to mail all the family presents to my husband and me, my sister-in-law dropped off the floral arrangement before Christmas and went on about her business. When WW and I opened the presents on Christmas Day (two modest presents each for the kids, a tacky Christmas sweater-from-hell for WW, an orange and purple gaudy handbag for me, and my sister-in-law’s floral arrangement for our new house), we couldn’t do anything but gasp in horror.
The Mother had mailed a floral bouquet that had a tag on it from my sister-in-law to me, wishing me a Merry Christmas. What WW and I pulled out of the box was an old, three-layer, dust-encrusted, silverfish infested, mite invaded, silk flower arrangement whose colors had long been muted by dust and age.
Santa: What did you do (rhetorical question, everyone, because next to ‘you know who,’ I always know who has been naughty or nice)?
The Blogger: Oh, cut the crap; you know that’s not true. I did nothing. I thought the gift was rather odd from my sister-in-law, but since I didn’t know her all that well, I figured I’d let the perceived slight go, and figured she had really, really bad taste.
But then, mighty Claus, something weird happened. Six months later, WW, the kids, and I went to visit “The Parents,” and when we drove up to the house, my sister-in-law arrived at the same time, and we all walked through the front door together. She and I both happened to glance at a magnificent silk flower arrangement on my mother-in-law’s sideboard as my sister-in-law proclaimed: “That’s just like the arrangement you sent Eleanor for me—I can’t believe you had Flora’s Flowers make you one exactly like hers. Mom, why didn’t you get a different design?” As my mother-in-law sputtered and stuttered about why she chose a duplicate arrangement, I looked into her eyes and I knew she had stolen my beautiful flower arrangement and put my sis-in-law’s tag on some old ratty, nasty-ass dried flowers she’d had in the attic for years. “Mom” turned beet red, and in that moment I could tell that she knew that I knew.
Santa: Okay, that one definitely slipped by me! What did you say?
The Blogger: Keep your flowers bitch, I’ve got your son—game on.
Santa: Ooo-kay! Christmas giving was meant to be done in a more charitable spirit. No wonder you goaded me into starting a support group.
At that point, a 90-year old black grandmother angrily yells from the back row as she gesticulates with her cane.
The Grandma: Then I guess I’ll bring up my Christmas present of “his-and-her” vibrators given to me by my old man of a husband. You do know my man’s randy-ass idea of a present was inspired by the gift of a year’s supply of Viagra that he conned his doctor into giving him—don’t you Santa Baby? And now I don’t have a moment’s peace? I haven’t had a good night’s sleep in months. Poking, poking, poking—I was looking forward to getting some rest at this stage of my life. Did you lose your ever-lovin’ mind, Santa giving him those machines? Just because these mens ask for stuff, don’t mean you has to answer, now do yo?.”
Summers Cartoon|image from The Orlando Sentinel
Santa: No ma’am. Sorry, Bernice!
A 20-year old rapper shouts from the audience (think Eminem).
The Rapper: Shit Santa, take a look at the Christmas gift from my granddaddy that is hanging behind you that you delivered last year. What the fuck, man? This thing will destroy my street cred; but I loves my pops, so I had to hang it up in my shower!”
Santa: I’ve got to admit that one grossed me out too. All I can say is sorry, Bro! We have time for one more before I start packing up for the 2012 run. My list says that there should be a Jim (average dad) present. Jim, are you here?
Jim, the Man: Yeah sure. Hi everyone, my name is Jim and I’m a classic weird-gift survivor—I’m the Christmas sweater dude that you all pretend you don’t know. My Aunt Mabel knit me this sweater for the Christmas season. Do I kill myself now or after Christmas?”
Santa: ”(Sigh) I’m beginning to see the picture and understand your pain—no wonder you’re pissed at me. We have time for one more, although I’ve really got to hit all the hot spots. How about the couple in the back that registered as “Mr. and Mrs. 47%?” Do you hate me?
Mr. and Mrs. 47%: It depends. Are you a Republican? We’re brand new to the weird-gift thing and we got the gift of “nothing” from the Romneys and the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party this Christmas. We don’t know if this means Mitt finally got a sense of humor or if he’s serious. My husband is a fireman and I’m an elementary school teacher, but we each got an empty plastic ball that said, “Nothing from nothing leaves nothing.” The card that accompanied it said it is the “Gift of nothing which is yours to discover.” Huh?
Image from Google.com
I came out of my eggnog induced sleep before I heard Santa’s answer, but I am discovering that if we have people in our lives whose gifts can’t be given from the heart, or the gift-giving is laced with cynicism, and the gifts are just given out of tradition or obligation, maybe we shouldn’t be giving them gifts at all. Maybe it’s time to really get into the spirit of Christmas and channel our hard-earned money to causes that will give gifts that can change the world. The first and real St. Nick from the 4th Century was the type of Santa Claus we should all be and was known as Nikolaos the Wonderworker. He secretly paid the dowries of three sisters to keep them from prostitution, he left coins in the shoes of any who would leave them out for him, and he fed the poor far and wide—no matter who they were. In every city and every town there are hurting people who, but by the grace of God go us, aren’t lazy or not trying hard enough, they’re not takers or slackers—they’ve just been screwed over. I’m thinking our greatest Christmas gift to the hurting world swirling around us is to become a “noticer”—(no turning away, no scurrying past the pain, just really seeing what is in front of us)—then the appropriate gifts have no choice but to flow from our hearts.
MERRY CHRISTMAS TO YOU ALL AND HAPPY HOLIDAYS IF THAT DOESN’T JINGLE YOUR BELLS!
“Best of all, Christmas means a spirit of love, a time when the love of God and the love of our fellow men should prevail over all hatred and bitterness, a time when our thoughts and deeds and the spirit of our lives manifest the presence of God.” —George F. McDougall
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