Here we are, already up to our aspics in the holiday season. By the time this goes to print, the country will be high on Black Friday savings from all those zeros they rolled up and smoked (legally) after not handing them over to store clerks for slippers, scarves, watches and waffle irons. What an amazing time of year. Puff, puff, save! Puff, puff, save!
Truth be told, I wasn’t born into a family of shopping enthusiasts. We aren’t recreational shoppers; we’re a pragmatic bunch when it comes to gift giving. Growing up in the 70s, our big night was Christmas Eve, when we gathered at my Nonie’s house in the Southeast quadrant of Jackson (one of my favorites to live in, if you consider the intersection of Highways 49 and 88 as the center. I’ve lived in three out of four). Anyway, my mom’s family drew names every year, so each person only had to shop for one other person. The adults, all seven or eight of them, all shopped for the only two children in the family at that time, my brother and myself, which of course was appropriate. My brother and I liked to show our giving spirit also, so we usually pooled our resources and shopped for the relatives out of the Avon catalog. To this day, I choose to believe my uncle appreciated every one of his yearly musk-scented soap-on-a-ropes and that they paid off handsomely down at the Wells Fargo Club for weeks to come. Catalog Santa for the score!
As much as my brother and I were eager to get to the main event I enjoyed watching the grown-ups open their gifts. They were almost always big, like a countertop appliance, or some weird gadget just out on the market. The expression on my Nonie’s face always conveyed one of two thoughts, whether watching someone else open a gift, or peering into her own present as she carefully unwrapped: “What the hell?” or “Oooooooh,” depending whether she knew exactly what she was looking at.
One memory, particularly, stands out. I must have been about eight, because as I recall, I was rocking one of my favorite material possessions ever, a pair of white, knee-high leather boots with embroidered flowers up the sides (remember, this was the swinging 70s). After the various blenders, toasters, popcorn poppers, etc., were opened by my parents, aunt, uncles and grandpa, it was my Nonie’s turn. Out of the box came a DaZey Seal-a-Meal. We marveled at the technology of the day. This was going to change everything for my grandma, who cooked entirely from scratch, often in batches large enough to feed a platoon. Consequently, a lot of oooohs and aaaaahs were heard that night. Secret Santa for the win!
Then came the envelopes. Every adult and child got an envelope from a certain not-so-secret Santa who wasn’t much for shopping, even for one person. We all loved Envelope Santa. If you asked the adults in the room that age-old Christmas question, “Do you believe?” they would have all answered “Yessss.” Luckily, that torch was passed and Envelope Santa still makes it possible for my generation to hear the bell on Christmas. Envelope Santa rocks!
But did you know that there are other Santas, such as Buys Clothes Anyway Santa? Even when you have specifically asked, or even begged BCA Santa not to buy you clothes, you know what’s in the box. In all honesty, BCA Santa hits a homerun now and then (further reinforcing her position to keep swinging). But the ground-out-to-first-base years, not so much. Those post-gift-exchange rituals are more like needle exchange programs: “Give me a clean needle (the receipt) and no one gets hurt.”
This year, it’s going to be a homerun year for BCA Santa; as a matter of fact, it’s shaping up to be Chicago Cub-like! I happen to know this because recently, my mom asked me if I thought my brother might like the same sweater she had just bought for my father. Like a dutiful sister, I said, “No. He’s asked you not to buy him clothes.”
But then, a week later, when my brother was visiting, this happened:
Son: “Pop, love the sweater! Where’d you get it?”
Pop: “Costco. Want to try it on?” (sneaking a look at my mom, who was salivating at the idea of a “W” on the Christmas books.)
Son: “Sure. (tries on the sweater) Wow, I really like this.”
Mom: “I’ll get you one for Christmas!”
Son: “Can I just have this one?”
Pop (frown): “No.”
Mom: “I’ll take care of it!”
BCA Santa for the walk-off home run!