But there's also a great feeling of hope in a $10 gift exchange. Because sometimes you get a sister-in-law who finds a really great gift...sometimes you get lucky. Sometimes God decides to send an angel straight down from Heaven to use her swoopy wings to gently guide this gift and make sure it lands in your eager, open hands.
That's exactly what happened to me last weekend when I ended up with this:
Of course my boys immediately fell in love with it, but I, too, squealed with genuine excitement when I ripped open my gift.
"Oh, I've always wanted one of these!" I said, tears of joy beginning to form in the corners of my eyes.
My family laughed. "Shay, you are so easy!" one of my sisters-in-law said.
I'd been called that before. I heard it a lot, in fact, in college and the years just after. But I don't think the people sneering it at me back then meant it in the same way, and anyway, I didn't want to get it into all of that at the family Christmas gathering. There were kids around, after all, and the kid-friendly, watered-down versions of my famous skank stories simply aren't as fun.
My young nieces gathered around me. “Aunt Shay, we’ve always wanted one of those, too!” They started grabbing at my Snackeez with their sticky sugar-cookie fingers, and I got a little panicked. I clutched my prize protectively to my chest.
"Yeah, I have, too, you little brats—so step off. It’s mine!” The adults in the room went kind of quiet, as if they couldn’t believe how I was behaving. I don’t know why my behavior would’ve surprised them, since I haven’t really changed it since I was like 12. But whatever.
“Well,” I said defensively, the Snackeez still hugged tightly to my person, “Santa brings them like a squillion gifts every single year—and they don’t even behave that well. You said so yourself,” I said pointedly to their mother. “I get one measly $10 gift—and dammit, I’ve been really good this year. My kids have only been late to school once because of me.”
I looked around and found everyone in the room nodding, like, Well, she does kind of have a point.
My younger niece, the 7-year-old, hadn’t let up on my gift yet. “Aunt Shay,” she said, gazing longingly at it. “You could put goldfish in the top and apple juice in the bottom…”
I shot her mother a wide-eyed look of disbelief. “Do you not teach this child anything?”
You know that saying “Youth is wasted on the young”? Well, gifts are, too. Gifts are wasted on the young. Because that kid would’ve filled my Snackeez with GOLDFISH AND JUICE.
Now I’m not saying that I don’t like my various jobs because I do. I really do.
But they are going to be a ton more fun with my new cheese and wine carrier tagging along with me.
I didn’t tell my niece that, though. She’s going to have to figure out this life thing on her own.