Monday, December 20, 2010

The Tradition Continues

When I was growing up, the adults on my dad's side of the family held a Christmas grab bag gift exchange. This wasn't for nice generic gifts though, this was a gag gift exchange and the worse the gift, the better. There were plenty of truly awful and uproariously funny gifts over the years, but the best had to be what the family called The Lady in the Bathtub.

The Lady was found (by yours truly when I was about 8) at my elementary school chili supper/white elephant sale. She was a wonder to behold; the lady was sitting in an old claw foot bathtub and she was submerged from the waist down and wearing nothing but a very large hat decorated with fruit. The bathtub and hat were painted gray while the lady and the bathwater were painted a glossy black. The lady was an older woman who was amply "blessed." Yes. She had enormous boobs. And the only bit of color on this whole darkly painted ceramic form was the fruit on her large hat and her breasts--which were painted to look like daisies, with the nipple being the center. All in all it was rather um, striking. And funny.

Our entry into the grab bag that year was The Lady in the Bathtub. It was wonderful. And she became a tradition. Whoever got the lady would keep her for a year and then wrap her up and put her back in the exchange. It became a bit of a contest in creativity to disguise her come gift giving time so that people wouldn't dodge her due to the size of her box. Someone put a slip of paper in a small box that read "You are now the owner of The Lady in the Bathtub." Someone else kept her out of the running one year to lull everyone into a sense of false tranquility. Unfortunately, as the grandchildren grew up and lives got busier, we stopped having a Christmas get-together with my dad's family and the grab bag exchange was no more. I don't know what happened to the Lady. But she is a fond memory for my family.

These days, my side of the family does our own gag gift exchange. There have been some memorable gifts--the Guy Fieri hat my dad won and the badly hand-painted Chief Illiniwek ceramic wall hanging come to mind--but there hasn't been a gift of the caliber of The Lady in the Bathtub. Until now.

Meet The Owl Family.

Why yes, yes they are made up entirely of seashells! And yes, those are googly eyes! So, um, special!

I found these lovelies a year ago at Goodwill and my heart began to race. I just knew that they had the potential of becoming another Lady. Last year, when I put them in the grab bag, I was excited to see who would get them. I was also really hoping that it wouldn't be me or my beloved. I didn't want them coming back home. Fortunately, my brother, Uncle Grumpy got them. He was not amused. He hated them on sight. It was perfect.

He tried really hard not to take them home with him. In fact, he left them behind at the last minute on purpose. Then, my loving mother hid them in the bag containing my children's presents and they went undiscovered until we got home.


Not to be deterred, we made sure to bring The Owl Family back to our next family gathering last Easter and Maggie was assigned the task of hiding the Owls in one of her cousin's suitcases. She did and we were elated when we got home after that visit and The Owls were not among our stuff.

Then, in August, right around her birthday, Maggie received a box in the mail from her cousin. She thought, "Cool! Jill sent me a little something for my birthday!." She didn't think it weird that her cousins had never sent her something before for her birthday and she just went ahead and opened it. The Owl Family sat there snugly in the box staring creepily up at her with their big googly eyes and a note that said "No tag backs".

Curses! Foiled again!

This time, The Owls went back into the exchange, but disguised as a slip of paper informing the recipient of the great gift they received. Guess who got them? Did you guess Uncle Grumpy? HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

He did his level best to hide them in my parent's house so he wouldn't have to take them home. He would have succeeded when he hid them in my mom's china cabinet, but my eldest nephew saw them and said "Why are the owls in Grandy's china cabinet?"

Yes. He and Maggie should not be let loose on the world. (Just kidding you two! You are both brilliant and I love you!)

At that point, everyone was on their guard, keeping an eye or a hand on their bags as we were all packing up to go. It got hidden three times and discovered twice, just in time. Unfortunately, the third time was the charm.

As my family and I were walking out to wave goodbye to Uncle Grumpy and his family, he was pulling out of the driveway in a hurry. He rolled down his window and yelled, "Have fun keeping The Owls in Indy!!!!" His children where hanging out the windows laughing and hooting with amusement and unfettered glee.

When we got to the van, there were The Owls, perched on the front seat, ready to go home with us. Again.


In the confusion of packing our things into the van and saying goodbyes, I hadn't locked the van. Then again, I didn't think I had reason to since we were in a safe area and around family. Boy was I wrong! Lesson learned.

Also? Uncle Grumpy, just so you know. It. Is. SO. ON!!! You'd better keep checking over your shoulder, because you never know where or when or how The Owls will show up. They're creepy that way.

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