For a big family, Christmas presents are an interesting proposition. Should every family member give every other family member a gift? For us, a family of ten, the answer has been a resounding, “I’d be broke if I gave all you jokers a present.” As a compromise, we kids generally pool our money, brainpower, and driving licences to give our parents a gift.
But not this year.
This year, I foolishly suggested, “Hey, you know what would be fun? Putting each kid’s name in a hat. That way, we can all get involved.”
The idea met with resounding accolades. I was deemed “brilliant”, “awesome”, and “the best sister ever” in the space of two minutes. A Cubs hat appeared in front of me, while raggedy strips of notebook paper fluttered into its sweaty interior. I held it out, like a harbinger of goodwill, and watched as everyone clenched their eyes shut, slowly drawing out a strip of paper.
Immediately, faces fell. A low murmuring started, with hurtful phrases like, “You’ve got to be kidding me”, “Whose idea was this anyways”, and “No. Just no,” liberally peppered throughout. Apparently…
A four year old girl is now buying for an eighteen year old guy.
The four year old was ecstatic. Face ablaze with Christmas joy, the small redhead whispered in my ear, “I know ezackly what to give Jacob.”
“What?” I say, perhaps a shade too brightly, because she shushes me.
“Quiet! I doesn’t want him to know.”
I apologize. She accepts and moves on.
“He wants…” her entire body leans forward in anticipation, waiting to drop the perfect gift bomb.
“A fishing pole.”
Nonplussed, I stare at her, while her tiny head bobs excitedly. The eighteen year old has never mentioned fishing in her presence, nor does he regularly fish; plus, sticking a worm on a hook elicits disgust.
“Ummm,” I manage.
Taking my hesitation for elation, she beams. “It will be his favorite.”
I smile too, but for an entirely different reason. “Oh, I know it will be.”
The eighteen year old clears his throat. An arched eyebrow signals that he has heard the entire dialogue, heartily disapproves, and favors a re-drawing of names.
Hurriedly, I say, “Ems, do you have any other ideas? Like sports stuff, or something?”
Emitting a gusty sigh, she plops down at the table, head propped on hands. “I sink the fishing pole is the best…”
I commiserate. “I know. But he won’t really use it. ‘Member how you have favorite things? Jake does too, so let’s think of those.”
“My Little Pony?” she squeals in surprise.
I try to intervene, but the planning has begun.
“Pinky Pie is my favorite, so maybe he will like dat. She’s pink. And pretty. She likes to have fun.” Em giggles at the lovely thought.
I look around guiltily for Jake, but he has already left the room. Expectantly, Em waits for my feedback.
Clearing my throat, I say softly, “He doesn’t like pink.”
Ems face falls.
“But Rainbow Dash is blue…”