Santahatesme Support Group

16 Dec

Do you know what I’ve discovered?  Even though it has been over sixty years 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 (God rest her soul—I think?) that passive-aggressively declared to any and all who were watching:  “I’m smiling on the outside that I have a new daughter-in-law, but I am pissed as hell on the inside that she is fucking black—why me, God?”

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 she deigned to  speak to us, most of her gifts went straight from the postman’s hands into the bin for the poor because they were usually so awful (anything pulled off the triple-clearance rack to check our names off her list would satisfy her).   But there is 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.”

(Google Image) 


Google Image 

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.  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.  Santa is not guilty.  But I do feel your pain because last year one of my peeps gave me a gift certificate to Weight Watchers along with a Gillette razor.   Hello!  Obviously, they didn’t know me.  Can we all say together:  ‘Don’t mess with the tummy and the beard—facial hair and fat equal job security?’  Having said that, I understand that there are some real grievances amongst you and being the good guy that I am, I thought I’d let you get them off your chest.

“Hum, how about “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 social media page.”

The Blogger:  “Thanks Santa.  Hi everyone, my name is Eleanor and I’m a weird-gift survivor.  I’ve been without the urge to kill my gift giver for three years now.  Praise God.”

The Group:  “Hi Eleanor—welcome to ‘Santahatesme support group!’”

The Blogger:  “Thank you for a safe place to come and try to get healing from these horrible memories.  Let’s see:  My downhill spiral started the third year of my marriage when my sister-in-law gave my mother-in-law a silk flower arrangement she had had especially made by an artist friend of hers for me.  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 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:

Goggle Image

“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.   I am extremely allergic to dust so the entire floral arrangement set of a chain of hysterical sneezing and itching that caused me to break out in a horrid round of hives that kept me laid up through Christmas.  Well, you can imagine the hurt and the confusion, Santa.  What signal was my sis-n-law sending?  What had I done to her?  How would I ever be able to build a relationship with her after such a hateful gift?”

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:  “I did nothing.  I was new to the family—I wanted to fit in, yada, yada, yada.  I felt if my sister-in-law could be that nasty, then why bother to engage her at all.  I thanked her for the “present” and went on with my life.  I had my man and he was the greatest gift that could come from them.

“But then, Santa, 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 asked her Mom in confused surprise:  ‘That’s just like the arrangement I sent to Eleanor—I can’t believe you had Flora’s Flowers make you one exactly like hers.  Mom, when did you get this and why didn’t you get a different one?’  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-n-law’s tag on something she’d had in the attic for years. She looked back at me and I could tell that she knew that I knew.  As my mother-in-law turned beet red and scurried off into the kitchen, I thought to myself:  keep your flowers bitch, I’ve got your son—game on.”

Google Image

Santa:  “Yikes, that one slipped by me!  It sounds like that was pretty rough on you, Eleanor.  I’m curious, did your mother-in-law like the gifts you gave her?”

The Blogger: “Never.  Nothing was ever good enough or up to her specifications. Anyway, I’ve long forgiven her and she has been dead quite a while now so the sting is gone.  Her ‘gift’ kept me from gaining a mother I never had and her from gaining a daughter who would have loved and adored her.  At her funeral, none of her kids spoke on behalf of her life—they remained silent and so did I (I guess I wasn’t the only one whose presents she had screwed over).   One of the reasons I started that write-in campaign to your Facebook page is because I wanted to help other families try and get healed from weird-gift syndrome before it was too late.  I figured you were just the dude who could help.”

Santa:  “Interesting…interesting.  Okay, let’s hear from some others then.  Since we’re doing bad mother-in-law gifts, why don’t we have ‘Angie from Peoria’ come on up.”

Angie:  “Hi everyone.  My name is Angie and I’m a weird-gift survivor.  I’ve been clean now for six months.”

The Group:  “Hi Angie, welcome to ‘Santahatesme!’”

Santa:  “Would you guys cut it out!  There are other names you can call this group.  Sheesh-Louise!”

Angie:  “When I was six months pregnant my husband’s fraternity brother gave me a “one in the oven” cookie-cutter gift set for Christmas.  I brought a picture to show you, but it is going to be hard for me to get through this without throwing up.  It’s called “Fetus cookies: a special gift for the mom to be.”

Google Image

The Support Group (screaming in unison):  “EEEYEUW!”

Santa (yells via PA system for janitorial service):  “Clean up—janitorial cleanup—left of the podium and all across the front row!  Okay, gang, while the janitor mops up this avalanche of today’s lunch, let us bring up a gift that is weird but not so gross, shall we?  I’ve got a year’s worth of cookies and milk in my body, and I just can’t take anything that gives me an upset stomach.”

90-year old black grandmother (angrily yells from the back row as she gesticulates with her cane):  “Then I guess I shouldn’t bring up my Christmas present of “his-and-her” vibrators given to me by my 95-year-old husband, huh?  You do know his randy-ass present idea was inspired by the gift of a year’s supply of Viagra that you gave 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.  Did you lose your ever-lovin’ mind, Santa Claus?  Just because these mens ask for stuff, don’t mean you has to answer.”

Santa:  “Sorry, Bernice!”

20-year old Rapper shouts from the audience (think Eminem): “Shit Santa, take a look at the Christmas gift from my granddaddy that is hanging behind you.  What the fuck, man?  This thing will destroy my rep, but I loves my pops, so I gotta hang it up!” Image

Santa:  “Stop it—all of you!  Oh, for God’s sake (and I mean that literally)—it is His birthday.  Get ahold of yourselves.  Show a bit of decorum.  Now calm down and let’s bring up someone less inflammatory.  My list says that there should be a Jim (average dad) present.  Jim, are you here?’”

Jim:  “Yeah sure.  Hi everyone, my name is Jim and I’m a weird-gift survivor.  I’ve been clean for one year now.”

Santa:  “Welcome Jim what’s your weird-gift trauma?”

Jim:  “Santa, I have lived for my kids, and I’ve done so without complaint.  I worked three jobs to put them through college and they never lacked for anything.  They have all graduated and are now back in the house living off me and their mother because they can’t find a job; I get it, and I’m glad to help.  But, you would think that four kids could have found a gift more conducive to who and what I am; instead they gave me a gift that ‘Cleans your way to sculpted calves while you scoot along.’   Are you shittin’ me Santa?!”

Google Image

Santa:  “Actually, Jim, that is a gag gift created by ‘The Onion.’   It just shows your kids have a sense of humor.  Surely they gave you something else?”

Jim:  “No, but my wife knit me this sweater.  Do I kill myself now or after Christmas?”

Google Image

Santa:  “(Sigh) I’m beginning to see the picture and understand your pain—no wonder you’re pissed at me.  Lord Jesus, help us!  We have time for one more, although I can’t imagine much worse.  How about the couple in the back that registered as ‘Mr. and Mrs. 99%?’”

Mr. and Mrs. 99%:  “Hello, everyone.  We’re brand new to the weird-gift thing and we’re barely holding on.  We don’t know if we can overcome our hurt.  We’re confused and dazed and we are kind of wondering if there is a God because we’ve lost our homes, our jobs, our savings, our hope, and our trust in our government (especially the current Congress) and the financial institutions that bet against us not being able to pay our mortgages.  The other day, all the 99% got this present from The Tea Party, the Republican candidates, the Republican Congress, the college school loan institutions, and some (not all) of the 1%.  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.’  Santa, what are we to do?  When did we get to this time and place where the few can basically say to the many, ‘I’ve got mine, baby, if it sucks for you—get a job!’” Image

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.  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’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 follow.

The Author

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


If you live in the D.C. area, one of the best organizations I know that truly “notices” humanity is N Street Village.  Please check it out this Christmas if you have a moment:


All text and photos by Eleanor and John Tomczyk © 2011 , except where otherwise noted.

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Eleanor Tomczyk and “How the Hell Did I End Up Here?” with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Posted by on December 16, 2011 in Uncategorized


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36 responses to “Santahatesme Support Group

  1. Babygirl

    December 16, 2011 at 12:30 am

    Great message this week! Hilarious! Loved the true story about the flower arrangement. Wonder if you’ll get any interesting gifts this year to send you back to the support group!

    • etomczyk

      December 16, 2011 at 12:41 am

      Hey Babygirl: What are you doing up so late? Yeah, that flower arrangement explains a lot, doesn’t it? Fortunately, that is all history–these days, I love all my gifts. Can’t wait to see you. xoxoxo

  2. Kimberly

    December 16, 2011 at 1:56 am

    Two thumbs up! I was chuckling the whole time!

    • etomczyk

      December 16, 2011 at 2:39 am

      Thanks Babe. Go to bed! 🙂 xoxoxox

  3. morristownmemos by Ronnie Hammer

    December 16, 2011 at 8:00 am

    I felt my blood pressure rise as I read about your late mother-in-law and how she tried to show her distain for your being in her family. Your reasons are not the only ones to cause rejection.My m-i-law never thought I was good enough for her precious son. My background was not one she could brag about to “the girls.”

    Years later, her younger son was divorced twice and her daughter never married at all, so I turned out to be to so bad after all.


    • etomczyk

      December 16, 2011 at 9:47 am

      Hi Ronnie. Thanks for dropping by. As my husband and I look back on the lives of his parents and siblings, we are so glad we chose each other and ignored their criticism. We chose “the road less traveled” and that has made all the difference because our love was true and strong and it has gone the distance. Merry Christmas!

  4. georgefloreswrite

    December 16, 2011 at 8:34 am

    🙂 Great stuff in there, Eleanor! Just the way to start my morning. Your last sentence really made me nod – “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)—”

    If I don’t see you before… Merry Christmas!!!!

    • etomczyk

      December 16, 2011 at 10:05 am

      Hi George. I’ve missed you! Hope your new home is a wonderful place of grace and rest for you. Thanks for stopping by and leaving your comments which are always so encouraging. Merry Christmas to you and yours.

  5. imagesbytdashfield

    December 16, 2011 at 8:34 am

    Stop it woman! You are bringing back memories of my first marriage and THAT mother in law. OMG some of those gifts! Fortunately years of therapy have erased the memories of those gifts outside of the one year when she gave envelopes with checks in them to us and the kids. Get this one – boy child had his name on it, girl child had her name on it, ours? Her son’s name and wife. I did not have a name and nobody thought it was wrong but me. Plus I got ostracized for not appreciating the gift. OY! Pass the spiked eggnog 🙂

    • etomczyk

      December 16, 2011 at 10:11 am

      T: You made me laugh! 🙂 “…and wife.” So glad our marriage survived the mother-in-law. A lot had to do with the strength and protection of my husband. He refused to put up with her shenanigans and called her on it everytme which meant she ended up not speaking to us most of the time. Fortunately, we lived thousands of miles apart. All the best to you!

  6. becomingcliche

    December 16, 2011 at 9:07 am

    Oh, Bernice! Poor, poor Bernice!

    Another great post!

    • etomczyk

      December 16, 2011 at 10:21 am

      Hi Skunkbiscuit.

      I know–poor Bernice is right–I’m sure she thought the war was over once they hit their eighties (blatant ripoff of Robin Williams joke, by the way). Merry Christmas to you and yours. Congrats on being freshly pressed by the way!

  7. Michael Zeigler

    December 16, 2011 at 10:22 am

    Loved this one! Great job! I particularly enjoyed the part about the arrangement. I think that each of us has someone like this in our families. LOL!

    Enjoy yourself & Merry Christmas Eleanor!

  8. Karen Molenaar Terrell

    December 16, 2011 at 10:57 am

    Eleanor, thank you for this post. It is a post that needs to be shared with the world (I’m sharing it on FB). God bless you. And “God bless the whole world. No exceptions.”

    • etomczyk

      December 16, 2011 at 11:12 am

      Amen, Karen, Amen! Thanks so much for posting this story on your FB page. That’s so kind of you and may it touch a lot of hearts to push back the darkness of hatred, selfishness, cynicism, poverty, and intolerance. Blessings!

  9. Tina

    December 16, 2011 at 1:21 pm

    Hey Eleanor. Couldn’t help but think of the book “The Noticer” by Andy Andrews. I have a feeling you would enjoy it. Thank again!

    • etomczyk

      December 16, 2011 at 1:32 pm

      Hi Tina. I never heard of “The Noticer” and I read a great deal. I’ll definitely have to order it. Thanks for stopping by. All the best.

  10. Sunshine

    December 16, 2011 at 3:41 pm

    Excellent examples of poor gift giving humans. 😦
    Your stories,however, gives me the opportunity to pause and reflect on my own gift giving habits. (I send my sympathy for such a m-i-law. Yikes!)

    • etomczyk

      December 16, 2011 at 9:00 pm

      Sunshine: Isn’t it the truth (the m-in-law)–whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Actually, writing this piece made me reflect on my own gift giving habits as well, and I actually changed course on a couple of gifts that had no heart in them and eliminated a few others that weren’t necessary. Money saved went to our charity contributions. All the best.

  11. Carolyn

    December 16, 2011 at 10:13 pm

    Thank you for sharing your story, Eleanor. My husband and I share the holidays by contributing to our favorite charities and hugging everyone we love. Gifts? Bah, humbug.

    • etomczyk

      December 16, 2011 at 11:24 pm

      Thanks for stopping by Carolyn. I really appreciate your comment and perspective. Cheers!

  12. DesiValentine

    December 17, 2011 at 8:46 pm

    Oh, honey. If only I had the stones to drop the “obligation gifts” from our list and send that money to non-profits with good works going on. If only! I’m getting braver by the year, however, so I’m thinking that when I get into my fifties, my husband and I will find somewhere tropical to spend our winter break, while the grandkids paddle around in the pool and radiate all the joy we need. In the meantime? I buy my “obligation gifts” from nonprofits with the hope that even if that gorgeous bit of Kenyan jewelry never makes it out of the box, at least it has helped a woman somewhere in the world get a bite of something for her kids. Merry Christmas, Eleanor! Thanks for the giggles!

    • etomczyk

      December 17, 2011 at 10:51 pm

      You’re welcome, Desi. It does get easier as you get older. Something snaps when you turn 60 and you just say “to Hell with it–I’m not doing this anymore.” I think it coincides with not caring what people think of you, as well. Merry Christmas!

  13. nonnie9999

    December 18, 2011 at 5:30 am

    i don’t have a lot of xmas present stories, since i don’t celebrate xmas, but i did get a xmas ornament one year for chanukah. i have no idea what i was supposed to do with it, as the person knows i never have a tree.

    i do have a gift story, though. for my baby shower before my son was born, my 3 then-sisters-in-law-to be and my mother-in-law-to-be, all of whom were very wealthy got me a playpen. well, nonnie, that sounds reasonable for a shower gift. well, it would be, except….

    first a little background. one of them owned a very successful real estate firm and lived a couple of houses down from ex-governor (and late ex-senator) bob graham. another one was a college professor, as was her husband. those were the ex’s (ptoooie) half-sisters. his full sister lived in the house that my ex’s (ptoooie) dead father left to his mother who gave it to the sister and her husband. she was married to a teacher, and she worked for many years for eastern airlines. they never had a mortgage payment. the then-to-be m-i-l was on her third husband, and both of them had worked for eastern airlines for over 30 years each. they weren’t hurting for money either.

    back to the playpen. it really looked like a piece of crap. it wasn’t something i would feel safe putting my child in. i noticed that the name on the box was sperry & hutchinson. it sounded familiar, but i couldn’t put my finger on it. then it hit me–s&h green stamps!! they all chipped in their books and got the piece of crap. well, that wasn’t gonna fly. i decided to embarrass them in front of everyone else (who were not wealthy and who got me much nicer gifts than they did). i noticed that there was a piece of wire or something sticking out of the playpen. i made a big deal over how i’d have to exchange it for another one, and i asked them where they got it. they weren’t even embarrassed! they admitted they pooled their green stamps. everyone else was shocked, but they just kept prattling on and eating. there are some people you just can’t embarrass, because they have no shame.

    • etomczyk

      December 18, 2011 at 7:57 am

      Nonnie: This story is so rich. I can see the characters as if they were standing in front of me. And only in the movies are these self-centered people ever “ashamed.” My m-i-l never apologized, in fact, she got worse after the incident. I think if my husband had not been squarely in my corner and didn’t take his mother on with the force of a dragon slayer, our marriage would not have lasted as long as Kim Kardashian’s.

      The Christmas ornament for Chanukah cracks me up! You could build an entire story around that one incident especially because the gift-giver knew you didn’t celebrate Christmas. Sometimes you just want to stand up and hollar! All the best.

      P.S. Love, LOVE the “ptooie” asides. I’m still laughing.

  14. Kirsten

    December 18, 2011 at 4:09 pm

    Oh ET, I wish you and yours a very merry Christmas. And just to add to the “bad gift” hall of fame: When my first son was three days old, my father came to meet his grandson. He took one look at me and asked if I’d like a GYM MEMBERSHIP for Christmas. Gee, thanks Dad…

    • etomczyk

      December 18, 2011 at 6:04 pm

      Hello, love (KF): Hope all is going well. I can hardly wait to meet JR. I can’t believe your Dad said that. I’m praying that as our grown kids come home WW and I will learn how to keep our “mouths” shut. Good grief! Merry Christmas, Kiddo. See you soon.

  15. Renee Fisher

    December 18, 2011 at 8:32 pm

    Oh my. You win. Worst. Gifts. Ever.

    • etomczyk

      December 18, 2011 at 9:34 pm

      Hi Renee. Yep, the one from the m-i-l was priceless. Nothing she ever gave me was useable or keepable. What can you do? What I can’t believe is that all those other gifts in the story are actual gifts. I don’t know what grosses me out more–the fetus cookies or the Christmas sweater. Ha! Have a great holiday.

  16. Maggie

    December 20, 2011 at 1:11 am

    Hello ET, very funny and boy did this bring back lots of “really bad gifts” memories from the In-laws for me!! My worst one was an opened box of gourmet cheese crackers! I guess they didnt care for them and didn’t want them to go to waste! You know who I am talking about….anyway, I love giving gifts and the past five years we have been involved with families who really have next to nothing! It really is more fun and blessed to give than to receive….people should try it. They will never be the same!! Love you and please hug WW and all the family for me! Merry Christmas, Maggie

    • etomczyk

      December 20, 2011 at 10:15 am

      Hi Mags. Yep, an opened box of gourmet cheese crackers as a gift really says “welcome to the family” like none other. 🙂 Too much. In any case, thanks for stopping by and reading the latest posts and for your lovely comments. Merry Christmas to you and the gang. “WW” just came inside from the garage, frustrated as hell, because he can’t figure out how to get the car seat secured in the fan. Good times.

      • Maggie

        December 20, 2011 at 2:29 pm

        Don’t mean to LOL, but after three kids, I still couldn’t get those things in…..thank God for my engineer husband!!!!! Tell WW that he just needs a few drinks under his Santa belt and he will be fine!

  17. Lindy Lee

    December 20, 2011 at 6:25 pm

    Entertaining as ever– you make me smile, etomczyk…

    • etomczyk

      December 20, 2011 at 10:54 pm

      Thanks Lindy Lee. Always a pleasure to have you stop by and leave a comment. Merry Christmas to you and yours.

  18. An Observant Mind

    January 3, 2012 at 3:54 am

    Oh my, that is the most terrible story! What an awful woman, you may have forgiven her, but I don’t have too 😉 My MIL despises the very air I breathe also, on the positive side, we don’t have to deal with a whole half of the family at the holidays! Saves for a lot of gifts like this. Its a wonder more mothers don’t realize that when you show contempt for the woman your son loves, only you are the loser in that equation. Ours doesnt see her son or grandson as a result of her behavior. Wishing you a (better) Christmas with only awesome gifts! (OK Im a little late, its January!) Loved the post – hilarious!

    • etomczyk

      January 4, 2012 at 1:21 pm

      Hey Karyn: Hope you had a wonderful Christmas. We had the same scenerio our entire married life with the MIL until she died. Her stubborn heart never softened. She lost. I would have been a wonderful daughter to her. So sad. Happy New Year’s kiddo!.


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