Guys, guys, you can calm down, I’m back.
I’m sorry. I know I should have warned you or at least posted a picture of myself making some strange face on Tuesday. But I had people to see, things to eat, planes to catch. You know how it is.
Vacation was great, Boston was great, my family remains wonderful, and I got to see everyone but my friend Hannah. I don’t accept the blame for that, because I thought she was in Oregon.
Christmas morning was a study in contrasts of past and present. All day I was remembering Christmases past, when my brother and I would wake up at 5:30am, sneak out of our rooms, pull out our stockings, and empty them to see if there was anything we could play with in them. I don’t think we could open any wrapped gifts in the stockings, but there would be chocolate and dollar-store toys and sometimes little scarves or mittens or especially warm socks.
This Christmas, we woke up at 11:30am, and by we I mean my 20-something brother, my 80-something grandmother, and I. My parents were up, because they have to be, they run the house and all that. We yawned our way downstairs, grabbed coffee and mimosas, and sat and read the newspaper until everyone was ready to open presents.
Todd and I used to share present-giving duty. This year I was the only one wearing the Santa hat. It takes a certain amount of spirit but also of calculation, to make sure that no one person feels neglected even given a disparity in the amount of presents between, say, parents and children. I was happy to take it, though, because it meant I controlled the flow of presents to my darling brother.
There’s precedent for some humorous present-giving between us. For years I just got him a $20 bill, because I knew that was really what he wanted more than a gift card or anything else I’d get him. But I’d fold it into an origami frog, or put it in a box inside another box inside another box. Nothing says “I care about you, doofus” more than a little extra thought put into the packaging.
So this year Toddy got eight presents from me. The first came in a lovely Christmas box without wrapping paper, and contained a handful of plastic gold coins which he let fall from the box in a waterfall that Scrooge McDuck would have been proud of.
The second was wrapped and the box was difficult to squeeze open. He rattled it. It made a sound like poker chips in a tray. He looked at me. He prized it open. Some plastic gold coins.
The third came in a larger box, also wrapped. This one he shook before he tried to open it. Same sound. He threw it down. I said, “But you don’t know what else might be in there.” He stared me down while he opened it. More gold plastic coins.
(These were spaced out, of course. He got real presents in between.)
I was grinning when I handed him the fourth. He shook his head at me the whole time he was opening it. Inside were colorful Christmas bows. Covering plastic gold coins.
At this point I was laughing like a gleeful four-year-old each time he opened a box. Which meant someone was happy. Certainly wasn’t brother-mine, although I saw a possibly-disgusted smile a couple of times.
Box five had packing peanuts…covering gold coins.
Box six was just gold coins.
Box seven was stuffed full of paper that you needed to pull out to even begin to see what was in it. There was enough paper to muffle any rattling. Under the paper was–
By the end my parents had to force Todd to open the boxes. No one else had presents left. I motivated him to open the last one by telling him, finally, that it was the last of its kind and by pulling out a much bigger box that I had hidden under the tree. He knew what the present I’d actually gotten him was, because I was forced to give him a basketball pump my dad had wrapped before the last of my special boxes just to space things out.
This is what I have to say. Anything worth doing is worth doing well. Your job, your hobby, your relationships, your holidays. Your sibling pranks. Why leave a joke on a verbal level when you can take it to the material plane? And if you do, why not stretch it as far as you can?
The amount I love my brother is more than seven boxes, several yards of wrapping paper, 144 gold plastic coins, a handful of Christmas bows, and a Spaulding basketball. I hope he realizes that by putting them together in the way I did, I was trying to tell him that.
Besides, come on. Everyone deserves to give themselves a little something for Christmas too. And the look on his face was worth a hundred gift cards.