Christmas is a special time of year when people gather with family and friends, making and recalling special memories. I wish that in this instance it was special, rather than a bit odd and uncomfortable.
My husband and met during college when we started dating. His family was spread across the small town where he grew up and his parents were divorced, so we had several houses to attend Christmas celebrations. We were to have Christmas with his dad, stepmom and her extended family. Prior to our visit, his dad asked my husband what was on our wish lists, and my husband gave him some ideas for both of us.
The day came for Christmas with them, which was off to a nice start with lots of goodies to snack on and visiting with everyone. Then came time to open presents, which was very organized compared to my upbringing. Instead of getting a gift, opening it, checking it out, and moving on to the next one after a “thank you,” my husband’s family opened presents in a totally different manner. Starting with the oldest person, they would open one gift while everyone watched, holding it up for all to see. Then the next person would open a gift while everyone watched, and the process continued to the youngest until everyone had a turn. It would then return to the oldest person and the cycle continued till the last gift was opened. Talk about a LONG process. And the thing I didn’t get was letting the oldest go first – this was pure torture for the kids that had to wait (even if they were teenagers).
So my turn came and I was excited because there was a huge pile of gifts for me and I was maybe a year into dating my husband. For the first couple rounds I got some CD’s and kitchen items (remember I was in college and poor). Then it came for another round. I thought for sure I was getting a cute shirt or some sort of clothing out of the shirt box I’d unwrapped. I lifted the tissue paper – and tried not to cringe, yet think of a polite reaction. In the box were three bras and three pairs of granny looking panties from JC Penney. I looked at my dear boyfriend, who looked a bit surprised but had a slight smirk on his face. His stepmom piped up and said, “Well that’s what was on your wish list, wasn’t it?” as serious as could be. I replied “I guess it was?” looking at my boyfriend. Later he told me he had told his stepmom those things as a joke -like that would be the last thing they’d go and buy for his girlfriend. Apparently what is put on the list is what is purchased.
The next person opened their gift, and we continued the cycle. I got to a gift from my boyfriend’s stepmom’s mom, who was an avid sewer. I opened my gift from her to find something you can’t find in a store – an apron that converted into a bonnet. Yes, you read that correctly. An apron that converted into a bonnet. I complimented her on such a versatile gift.
I had a couple glasses of wine to get me through the rest of the visit if I remember correctly, and to cope with the questions in my mind of what kind of family I was getting myself involved with. Well, I ended up marrying that boy with the quirky family gift exchange. And I learned to write my own wish list, and be very specific.