Monday, January 08, 2007


My family enjoys grab bags. I am not sure why I’m presenting this topic today, there’s no way I can adequately convey this experience. Which is probably for the best, really. But it seems I’m not actually letting that stop me.

Grab bags are a bit odd to even before you do something foolish like involve my family. Everyone’s family is odd. There is no such thing as a normal family. I make no claim that mine is any odder than any other family. Actually, for the most part we’re pretty well balanced. But one manifestation of our particular brand of oddness, well we can be a bit goofy.

For those of you who need help with subtext that last sentence was an understatement.

The annual Christmas grab bag is a distillation of that goofiness, refined and delivered in its purest form. I believe it was my grandmother who started the tradition, which explains a lot. It actually started within my life time. I remember Christmases when we did not do a grab bag, and now it’s a tradition. I don’t, unfortunately, remember the exact year it started. I do not believe it will stop any time soon, though. It’s well on its way to becoming legend.

The first few years, my grandmother bought all the gifts. Eventually, though, I think she got tired of shouldering all the blame, so this year she empowered each of us to purchase or otherwise acquire our own “contribution.” My brother remembered this (curse him) and reminded all of us about our obligation shortly before Christmas.

He used phrases like “hopefully significantly increase the Grab Bag gift quality,” “perfect opportunity for regifting,” and “Don’t spend more than five bucks!” My grandmother was a bit irritated by that first line, especially when combined with the last one. Then my uncle reminded her that the last grab bag had provided him with a plastic deer that “offered jelly beans in a novel manner” (again for those of you who have difficulty with subtext, “novel manner” means “pooping”). And that is one of the gifts that was fought over.

Fortunately, for comic value at least, my brother’s prediction did not come true. If anything, things got worse. I left with a pink Barnes & Noble t-shirt and a book of etiquette, and I was one of the lucky ones. My cousin got a cat statue made of real rabbit fur that is supposed to look like a sleeping kitten. I do not think I’ve ever seen anything creepier. My uncle, to go with his deer, ended up with a lamp. It is a leopard print lampshade sitting on a woman’s leg (in fishnets no less). I love the holidays, and I really love my family. We have so much fun.