The Worst Presents I Ever Received

Christmas is a time for giving, and if you are like some of my friends and family, a time for giving the worst gifts imaginable.

I'm not sure how the tradition started; perhaps the custom of receiving bad gifts mutated from my fondness for things strange and unusual. Maybe the practice of giving me unfavorable things is due to my family's inherent genes and my cultivation of acquaintances with eccentric personalities and weird senses of humor. Or quite possibly, I just attract things fouled, faulty, and dreadful.

I remember early thoughts of receiving bad gifts at a young age. I recall opening large presents from Aunt Stoneheart; underneath the red and green foil paper would be a package advertising the contents within: Lincoln Logs, Legos, or a Hot Wheels race set. Inside I would find only a blanket, socks, and underwear. Granny Em would give me a shirt and pants in the least attractive unmatching colors, always two sizes too big; I think she took pleasure in knowing I'd need to keep the clothes until I grew into them, and the persistent looming threat of one day actually wearing them. Uncle Eustace would always give me something I couldn't identify, just to make himself laugh. Even my Mom would present me the ugliest sweater she could find to remind me one can't always get what he wants.

Over the years, bum gifts included from Ed a set of designer watches in a hardwood case embossed with a well known Swiss timepiece logo. Inside were two off-brand wristwatches, a Timel and Classio, one which didn't run. From Tina there was the thirty dollar gift certificate for a restaurant that closed its doors three years ago. From Bob came the set of plastic summer dinnerware, complete with the wear marks and scratches from four years of the giver's previous use. And from Andy, hilarious Andy, there was the electric tie rack given to the guy who wears no ties, the barbecue set to the guy who does no grilling, the football jersey to the guy who hates sports, and for the guy who loves Cubano music, bongo drums with missing drumheads.

I have learned to return the favor to those who have given me bad gifts. For you Aunt Stoneheart, in the tiny, expensive looking jewely box, one Lincoln Log. Granny Em, you get the cotton candy pink, lime green, and fluorescent yellow muu-muu. For Uncle Eustace, I don't know what this thing is, but judging from the antique store clerk's laughter as I exited his shop, it is worth less than the pittance I paid.

For Ed I have a pocket watch which stops for five minutes at half-past every hour. For Tina a gift certificate for a diner in Bangladesh. For Bob I give back the summer dinnerware set with five more years of wear and tear.

And to Andy, hilarious Andy, I give you a package of peppermint hot chocolate, the kind you detest so much. The kind I have been giving you every Christmas for the past twenty years.

(This piece was written from a writing prompt given at the Algonquin Area Writers' Group Creativity Cafe.)