Just when I start thinking I’m normal, Christmas gift exchanges demonstrate I’m not. But then, it’s pretty silly I start thinking such things.
Every year since high school, I’ve attended Robby’s Christmas party.
Well, not the year I ditched his anti-homecoming party to attend homecoming.
I wasn’t invited that year.
But every year since then.
And every year, there’s a white elephant gift exchange. Only, not a traditional white elephant, because with the exception of Skye and me everyone buys their gift.
We’re cheap rebels.
Skye, with my encouragement, made a small painting for last year’s white elephant. It was a small square canvas on which she’d painted a reindeer and the word Noel.
Trust me when I say it was adorable.
Though Skye had doubts about its viability as a singular gift, I loved the painting and assured her it would be popular.
(Notice the ominous foreshadowing.)
So we gathered at Robby’s and ate chili and played the piano and discussed the previous year. Then we gathered around the Christmas tree and people, in the order of drawn numbers, started selecting gifts.
Upon unwrapping Skye’s painting, the chooser tilted her head and scrunched up her face and asked one of the least hoped for questions when presenting a gift to someone; “what is it?”
Surprisingly, nobody else at the party spoke up. “It’s a painting, isn’t it adorable?” I said loudly, hoping the crowd would quickly agree.
Silence. Complete and utter silence.
Skye, since it was her gift and we’re not suppose to reveal which present we brought, sat quietly.
Still looking at the painting questionably, the receiver flipped it over to stare at the open back of the canvas, asking “what does it do?”
“It’s a painting, you hang it on your wall. It doesn’t… it doesn’t do anything. It’s a painting. It looks really amazing – such a great holiday decoration!” At this point my exclamations had become that higher pitch and louder tone where you think you sound normal but everyone else realizes they’re witnessing the awkward.
“Huh” the girl responded, still turning the painting around as though expecting to find something useful hidden inside the canvas folds.
Though the next person stepped forward to grab their gift, the low hum of awkwardness stayed in the air the rest of the night.
At least until I got to spend time with this one.
This one gets me.
Robby’s party is this coming Thursday, and I haven’t yet decided on a white elephant gift.
I might choose a gift card, or a DVD, or dryer balls – all have had their gift exchange moments in the sun.
But whichever present I bring, I hope the night ends with car pushing.
‘Cause that’s the sign of a great get-together.
The first year I wrapped my present again and again in different wrappings as a joke
Absolutely nobody thought that was funny
So my awkwardness is as much a tradition as the party and the gifts,