When I was a kid my four siblings and I exchanged gifts by partnering up and pooling our money. Not only did this joint effort increase our purchasing power, but it also doubled our brainstorming efforts. The result was the ability to deliver an amazing gift. The nearby K-Mart provided ample affordable items for our shopping pleasure. This annual ritual kicked into high gear once we requested that my mom drop all five of us at this popular bargain paradise.
We frequently recount the year that Pat wanted to purchase a panda bear stuffed animal for our youngest brother, Mike. An employee climbed a ladder to inspect the price tag on the toy at Pat's request. Pat's disappointment that he couldn't afford it was short lived. A moment later as if on cue an announcement bellowed over the loudspeaker: 'stuffed toys hanging from the ceiling now on blue light special.' Oh, the excitement. Of course while all of this unfolded, one sibling was assigned the task of keeping Mike occupied in another part of the store. Once our mission was complete, we hurried to the register, paid, and stuffed our bags inside our coat or behind our back in order to maintain the element of surprise.
Fast forward 32 years: Mini requested that all of the Shenanigans exchange gifts this year. Although the suggestion was made in the eleventh hour, everyone was on board. Moments before Coach whisked them all to Target, we laid the ground rules. Names were drawn from a hat, secret Santa style. A ten dollar limit was set, and those with cash flow issues were guaranteed a parental loan despite shaky credit history. Laddie decided to shop on his own time. No one objected, since he enjoys driving privileges.
The kids rushed into the kitchen a little over an hour later. Each whispered to me what gift they had chosen for their brother or sister. A few nights later on Christmas Eve they scurried around scrounging up spare scissors, tape, and wrapping paper. This new tradition seemed to be taking shape until the unexpected happened.
Every year our youngsters hurry into our bedroom when they wake up on Christmas day. Our room serves as a holding cell. Extra bodies crawl under the covers and we search for a Christmas show to watch while we wait for the sleepy heads to wake up. With a growing number of teenagers under our roof, the wait has grown lengthy. I sacrificed my cozy spot in bed and raced downstairs to get a jump start on the breakfast casserole that I make each year. With time to spare, I showered and finally welcomed the older guys into our room.
A few of the kids retrieved their secret Santa gift from their room as we prepared to go downstairs and check out the tree. Before we even left the master bedroom, Eddie and Lad exchanged words in a heated outburst. Eddie moved away from Lad at my command and mumbled something about how ridiculous it was that Lad hadn't bought anything for 'her'. Laddie wasted no time in demanding that Tank find 'it.' I remained in the dark until I cornered Laddie and asked for an explanation. He reminded me that a few weeks prior he had found a Hello Kitty camera when he helped me move Curly's bed. I vaguely remembered what he was referring to, but was fuzzy on why this was relevant on Christmas morning. The camera, actually functioned and had been left behind by a playmate.
Lad's master plan to regift the camera to Curly backfired when he discovered it wasn't where he had hidden it. The next thing I knew, Lad was holding Tank hostage insisting that he produce the camera. Tank was digging thru drawers in his room under Laddie's watchful eye. Eddie offered his two cents once again- reprimanding Lad for not actually shopping for his assigned sibling, Curly. Lad, frustrated that he might be the only sibling without a gift, started punching Ed in the gut. Sine Lad is 6 foot 2 and over 200 pounds, this was no laughing matter. Instead of calling out 'ho, ho, ho', I was hollering, 'no, no, no!'
Eventually Tank involved his roommate, Reggie, in the search. Hello Kitty resurfaced, Laddie wrapped his re-gift, and our bumpy Christmas morning smoothed out. Curly was thrilled with the camera. She started snapping away capturing moments on her 'new' Hello Kitty camera.
|This is the new camera that Lad ended up |
'buying' her - translation, Mommy funded
most of the camera because it was a
bit above the typical sibling grab-bag budget.
Later at my folks' house, Curly solved the mystery. 'This is my friend Mandy's camera,' she declared. She pointed to a photo in the digital display. It was a man with long hair. Because Mandy's father has long hair, it was impossible to deny his image. Curly was crestfallen knowing that she had to return the camera to her friend. I assured her that Lad would take her to the store to select her own kid's digital camera.
Creating family memories thru a sibling gift exchange seemed like a great plan. While the Hello Kitty camera may not have been the most legitimate of gifts, it will certainly be a memory stand-out for years to come.