Pollyanna and the Random Weirdness of Humans, Gift-Giving Edition

Lyda here. It’s Tuesday, and of course that means it’s time for the weekly Random Weirdness of Humans.

This week, we’ve got reports of Black Friday’s sales and countdowns to Santa’s visit ringing in our ears. So today we go bravely into the Random Weirdness of Gift-Giving, with many digressions along the way, of course.

“It was the best of gifts, it was the worst of gifts…”

1) First, in case you are considering going traditional, you should know that the cost of the 12 Days of Christmas has gone up. For one thing, the milkmaids got their first raise in ten years. I bet they have to buy their own bonnets too. If you are planning on following the song exactly (giving two turtle doves and another partridge in a pear tree on the second day, for example, and continuing on in that vein), it will all cost you over $78,000. And that doesn’t include care and feeding of the livestock.

Personally, I’d rather have the cash.

I’m just putting that out there.

Just in case, ya’ll.

2) Here’s a list of the 15 worst holiday gifts. We will ignore the comments about handmade gifts; the writer is obviously not a knitter / quilter / crafter. Although we all know she’s right about handmade gifts costing more in time and money. But we’re all knitting gifts anyway, aren’t we?

3) That reminds me of the year that My Brother The Doctor (a college student at the time) made all of his gifts with a glass-cutting kit. This was in the 70s; it was a happenin’ craft then. He spent hours and hours turning bottles and jars into lamps and vases and such. No, I don’t think any have survived.

Ya’ll need to remember that ours was a family of eight. Plus my brother had many friends. That’s a lot of bottles, and a lot of glass cutting. For more than a month, you could hear the tink tink tink of the glasscutting coming from his room. Christmas Eve? Tink, tink, tink late into the night.

We still tease him by going tink tink tink.

And he still flinches.

4) … Two three four… And then there was the time…

Alas, we come now to a cautionary tale. A scary cautionary tales, with zombies and emergency rooms and everything. Come with me, to the Dark Side of crafting.

One year when I was poorer than dirt, I made everyone in the family a new stocking, our childhood ones having disintegrated. Except my sister made me one so I wouldn’t have to make my own. Which I still have, ’cause she made it for me and it’s got a unicorn on it and it’s beautiful and special. Yeah, I said a unicorn. Shut up. By this time, I think I had a sister-in-law or two, so I had eight or nine stockings to make.

So I specially designed each person’s stocking. Completely covered in crewel embrodery. Why? Why did I think this was a clever idea? Why didn’t I just embroder their names on fabric stockings I sewed together in ten minutes? Why??

The answer is lost in the mist of time. Or maybe is related to that “overachievement” thing Anna-Liza is always on about. I do know it took forever. I was working on them feverishly all November, with sore fingers and bleary eyes and never enough progress.

There I sat, on Thanksgiving Day in my mom’s living room, blearily working away. An embrodering zombie.

And I poked myself in the eye with the needle.

Oh yes I did.

There was no bleeding, but there was crying, bitching, and moaning. It hurt like a… it hurt a lot. My mom finally took me to the emergency room. On Thanksgiving Day. Late in the afternoon.

Where a tired and very overworked doctor peered into my eye with a really big magnifying glass and a very bright light, and determined that I had poked my eyelid but not my eye. How embarassing. I did not have medical insurance, and this diagnosis cost over a hundred dollars, a lot of money to me at the time. Hell, it’s still a lot of money.

Moral of the story: Keep pointy objects far away from eyes. Or wear safety glasses.

And yes, I still finished all the stockings before Christmas.

Corollary Moral: Crafters are crazy.

Corollary to the Corollary: Zombie crafters are completely insane.

5) The worst part of this story? Only one of the stockings survived more than one season. Everyone took theirs home and promptly “lost” them. I have my mom’s because I found it when we were going through her things after she died. My mommy loved me. And she was a Pack Rat of Epic, even Biblical, Proportions. Clearing out her things was like trying to part the Red Sea. Without Moses.

They were, of course, the most hideous stockings ever created. But they were stitched with love.

6) Other tales of family gift-giving. Let’s see…

My mom was an amazing seamstress, and she also made rugs for a while. When I was a teenager, she made me a rug with a unicorn on it – ah, a leitmotif emerges – I would just like to say for the record that I am no longer besotted with unicorns, I was young and hadn’t discovered zombies yet, thank you very much, digression over – which I had for many years. Alas, a cat with a weak bladder was this rug’s demise.

My mom hooked the rugs.

Mostly because she liked to be able to call herself a hooker.

Ba-dum-dum.

7) My mom had a great flair for getting people just the right thing – a talent I sadly did not inherit. She loved buying presents, and bought things throughout the year for Christmas. Then she would hide them in her closet so we couldn’t get our grubby mitts on them.

For years on Christmas morning, once the unwrapping was coming to a close, my mom would sit with a puzzled expression, and then leave the room.

And come back with a present she’d forgotten about.

Sometimes she wouldn’t remember or find a present until a week later. A Pack Rat of Biblical Proportions. Really. Hers was the Bermuda Triangle of Closets. There could have been WWI pilots lost in there. There was always the possibility of one more something from Mom.

And she also gave us presents during the year, just because she couldn’t wait. She would hand me something lovely, or funny, or useful, or all three, and say, “I saw this, and I thought you could use it in your business.” In my business. *snort* Hey, now, stop that. If I had had the kind of business ya’ll are thinking of, I would have had more money. She also used to hide $20 bills in the book I was reading. She remembered what it was like when $20 made all the difference. And if someone wanted to borrow $20 from Mom, she would tell them, “This is a gift. Someday when you can afford it, you can pass it on to someone who needs it.”

‘Cause that was how she rolled.

8.) My parent’s shopping habits: Compare and contrast.

My dad only shopped on Christmas Eve, and only at Sears. If Sears did not have it, he did not buy it. Also, my dad was color blind. And thought fashion was stupid. Yet for some reason, he insisted on buying the women in the family things like sweaters and purses and robes. After my parents split up, this became a problem.

A very color-blind man with no sense of fashion buying a woman’s sweater. At Sears. On Christmas Eve. Ya’ll can imagine.

The second year after my parents split, it was determined, in a clandestine meeting of the family’s females, that my dad needed to be stopped before he gifted again. It was further determined that I would accompany him on his Christmas Eve shopping trip, and prevent him from buying Presents of the Hideous Kind.

Now, ya’ll, this was no hardship. I loved being with my dad, and he was happy to have my help. I was indeed able to gently suggest more appropriate gifts for the women in the family, and to keep him from unleasing Gifts of Mass Destruction.

But – ya’ll, this is one of my stories – as anyone who has ever shopped with me, or watched TV with me, or even been around me for fifteen minutes, knows…

I am a smart ass. I like to mock things. I make fun of things. Mercilessly. Nothing has ever stopped the mocking frenzy that is me.

So, Dad and I are in Sears, where America shops, on Christmas Eve. And I am mocking the fashions in the women’s department. Yes, this was like shooting fish in a barrel, especially in the 70s.

As we are wandering the aisles, we walk past a display of women’s nightwear. And mid the tartan nightgowns and fuzzy slippers, there is a prominent display of footed pajamas.

FUZZY footed pajamas. In pink and blue. Just like a toddler would wear. Only in women’s sizes. Like this, but lower quality and with a zipper. Be afraid, be very afraid.

How could I resist mocking them? I believe I sarcastically said something about what an awesome gift the fuzzy footed pajamas would make for a sophisticated woman-about-town. Or something like that.

Oh, ya’ll are getting ahead of me. Wait for it…

Christmas Day arrives. I open a big package from my dad.

Yup. Fuzzy footed pajamas. In baby blue.

To this day, I don’t know if he was kidding or not.

The funniest part? The heater in his house was broken and it was freezing. So I actually wore the damn fuzzy footed pajamas.

Oh yes I did.

I think he was pleased. And what the hell, there weren’t any eligible menz around, and the pajamas were warm. 

And yes, I did not mock while shopping with him again.

9) Yet another weird gift-giving story. The year in question, I had very very little money for presents. Another leitmotif, ya’ll will note. Actually, I had none, but I went to Pier I Imports anyway. I bought each person in the family a little ornament. For under $1 each. And I wrapped them up and mailed them the cheapest way possible.

I got my father a little wooden elephant ornament, because he loved elephants. My dad still had the carved wooden elephant that had been his as an infant. You could see the teething marks, and the mend in one of the legs where it had broken. The elephant had the sheen and dignity of a toy well loved. Yes, I’m going all “Velveteen Rabbit” on ya’ll. Just deal, okay? We called this the Daddy Elephant when we were growing up; people gave my dad lots of elephants, but this was the biggest and most special one. This is not a digression; no, really.

So anyway, I got my dad this little wooden elephant ornament, with his trunk uplifted of course. My dad had told me that in China, you never carve an elephant with a trunk pointing down, because the good luck runs out. Although the Daddy Elephant had his trunk pointing down. Did I ever tell you my dad was born in China? Wait, now I am digressing. This little $1 elephant was carefully wrapped and sent across the ocean to Hawaii, where Dad was living at the time with my stepmom.

I felt guilty that I had given everyone such cheap and meaningless presents.

And then I got a letter from my dad.

He said he loved the little elephant best of all the things he had received. He loved the little drip of resin coming off his trunk (which I hadn’t even noticed). He said it made the little elephant look like he was getting over a cold. He kept the little elephant on his desk and it made him smile each day because it made him think of me. That little elephant sat there on my dad’s desk as long as he lived.

You never know what will bring another person joy.

10) After my dad died, my stepmom gave me something from him. She told me that my dad had talked with her about which items should go to each of us kids. And this was what he wanted me to have, and to pass on to my child.

I unwrapped the package.

Inside was Daddy Elephant.

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