Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Christmas in July

As an elementary school student who lacked both the transportation and discretionary income for Christmas shopping, I was forced to buy presents for my family at "Santa's Workshop."  This was not the enchanted place at the North Pole where elves scamper about spreading holiday cheer.  Rather it was an array of mediocre items in the school library manned by PTO moms.

Nevertheless, I was so excited to shop there.  For one, I had no idea that the items were mediocre.  (Giant pencil with a cloth "grandma head" attached to the top--Grandma Theresa would LOVE that!  Those giant pencils are so practical.)  For another, the PTO moms wrapped the gifts for you, so the presents could be a surprise! (Or not.  I did get my Dad the same tire gauge three years in a row.  But they wear out quickly...I think.)

The gifts purchased from Santa's Workshop were not always the most appropriate, which was largely related to the fact that the majority of the shoppers had limited or no reading skills.  One year my Mom received an ornament from my sister that read "Baby's First Christmas" and another year a mug from my brother exclaiming "Grandpas Make Life Grand!"  (I'm sure going from an infant to a senior citizen, of a different gender no less, in the span of the year was a crippling blow to the ego.)

The greatest lesson from the Santa's Workshop relates to my brother, Patrick.  Each year my Mom would give us an allotted amount of money with which to purchase our gifts, so we would have to roughly calculate how much we could spend on each person.  And this is where Patrick's problem started.  While perusing the long tables of merchandise with which to delight his family, a watch caught his eye.  It was priced at $10, easily making it the most expensive item in Santa's Workshop and attesting to its superior quality and beauty.

He had to have it.  But his budget didn't really allow for it.  His solution: get the watch anyway and buy everyone else pencils at a quarter apiece. 

When my Mom realized what he had done (which, of course, she would because you don't just walk around with a flashy new watch unnoticed) she was not having it.  The problem was not the pencils because, you know, it's the thought that counts, expensive gifts aren't necessarily better, etc., etc.  The problem was that the pencils were a means to a selfish end (no matter how cool the watch was).

The watch?  Mom made him donate it to Toys for Tots because, you know, the lesson wouldn't have been as deeply felt if he was still telling time in the dark or underwater (which I'm sure a $10 watch could do).

The family on Christmas day, years before the notorious watch incident

And, let me assure you that the watch I'm wearing was a completely legitimate gift from someone other than myself.

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