Delightful Christmas Presents 

Ah, yes, it’s Christmas time again.  It’s that busy season when we do all the baking, and consequently all the eating, and hence all the blimping out that we really would rather not do at any other time of year.  We write newsletters to people we don’t think about from one December 25th to the next.  AND we buy gifts for each other that nobody needs — which brings me to fond remembrances of Christmases past and how gift-giving tends to go at our house.

My husband is a frugal kind of guy.  He gets his kicks out of presenting us with Christmas presents that he is very happy about, because he got such great deals on them.  He chortles about how cheap they were.  I don’t mind in the slightest about them being cheap.  I don’t even mind that sometimes they are kind of dumb and not of any interest to me.  I don’t have any huge wants in the material line anyway.

Last year, Paul gave Beebee and me each a pole lamp for Christmas.  Yes, you read that right — pole lamps.  And they were extremely ugly pole lamps, too.  I sometimes gazed for whole minutes at mine, scarcely able to believe that I was consenting to its presence in our living room.  The vertical support pole leaned, unable to bear the weight of the cross-pole with the lamp on the top of it.  The lamp head itself, from one vantage point, looked like an overturned stainless steel mixing bowl on a stick.  From another angle it looked like an alien being with a helmet on its head.  I endured it for about two weeks before deciding I had had enough.  There are just some things that must not be borne!  Beebee could not support the idea of keeping hers either, and those two pole lamps sold for twice as much at the following summer’s rummage sale as Paul had paid for them in the first place.

I get many ugly Christmas gifts.  Most of them come from elderly relatives, who think they are beautiful.  I have a reputation for having no taste.  But even I have more taste in my little finger than some members of my family do.  Case in point: last year’s winner of the Ugliest-Christmas-Present-of-the-Decade award.  It was a decorative plate, vaguely resembling Blue Willow Ware, with wrinkled praying hands dead-center (the straight praying hands, not clasped knuckle hands).  It reminded me of a bit of theology my mom had passed on to me when I was a child: Catholic folks prayed with their hands straight, while we nice little Protestants prayed with the clasped knuckle approach.  (Where DO people get such notions?  I think the only reason little children were ever taught to pray with folded hands in the first place, whether it was the clasped knuckle or straight hand method, was to keep their fidgety little pinkies from doing naughty things when they should have been concentrating on God.  It couldn’t possibly have had anything to do with impressing God, I’m sure.)  ANYWAY, the plate was the epitome of religiosity and was ugly besides.

When I opened it, the giver (name removed to protect the guilty) went on about how pretty it was, and brought my attention to the fact that she had even mounted it in a wall hanging, so it was all set to go.  This meant I could not hide it in the back of the cupboard under a stack of other plates.  Sigh!  In order to keep my name from being expunged from the family tree forever, the plate had to be prominently displayed somewhere for all the world to notice and make mental note of my poor taste.  It ended up in the entryway, as I could not possibly bear to have it in the kitchen.  If my relative had come over and had not found it prominently displayed somewhere, her feelings would have been hurt, and my goose consequently cooked.  I spelled this all out to my dear child, who did not want the ugly plate to be displayed anywhere except at the next available rummage sale.  I said the plate would have to be hung until [name removed to protect the guilty] had seen it and was satisfied.  Beebee gave me a very serious look and remarked that [name removed to protect the guilty] didn’t get out and about as much as she used to, and it might have to hang there a year or more, much to Beebee’s and my mortification.

But on to other examples of ugly Christmas presents.  We received one very grotesque dancing/singing frog from my brother.  In fact Gary was on a roll — we also got a fowl in a Santa hat that sang the chicken song while it hopped across the floor.  It hopped so hard that it threw a rivet out, and I couldn’t figure out where it was supposed to go back in.  But it continued to hop in rare form, even without its rivet.  And, as if we didn’t already have enough mice at all times in our home, Gary also gave us a squeaky-voiced rodent singing, “Oh, bring us some figgy pudding” at the top of its pipes. Yes, my brother has tastes that he inherited from some of the other relatives.  Family genes will do it to you every time.  (Gary will not mind that I did not insert “name removed to protect the guilty” where his name belongs.  He takes great pleasure in his personal brand of tackiness.)

Beebee wanted to immediately relegate all these atrocities to the rummage sale box along with the praying hands plate, but I insisted we keep them out to scare our grandson with when he came.  For weeks, every once in awhile I felt compelled to squeeze the mouse’s foot, just to make her squeal, “Oh, bring us some figgy pudding,” and see who I could startle.

Paul also showed me an item that almost became one of my Christmas presents — but he thought better of it.  It was a label maker.  I was in awe, and wanted to know what on earth I was supposed to have done with this gadget.  So he recited all its lovely possibilities.  I was not impressed, and suggested he make it a Happy Birthday present to himself. 

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