The most special things are the things that don't really belong anywhere but here.

Saturday, December 8, 2012


So I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve been having a really hard time with Christmas presents this year. Usually, Christmas shopping makes me energized. I get a lot of joy and satisfaction from picking things out, and if I’m doing well, I can’t stop. Usually, I’m crocked-full of good ideas (is that an expression? Like a crock pot. Like, if you put my ideas in a crock pot and cooked them, there would be a lot to eat) but not this year. I feel like every few days, I go to the mall and I leave feeling irritated and defeated. Sometimes I feel like I’ve accomplished something because I have a gingerbread latte in my hand, but let’s face it, that’s just accomplishing diabetes.

My shopping angst got me reflecting on Christmases past and different approaches we take to not only selecting gifts, but also to the act of giving them.

Approach #1: Overdoing it

I grew up in a family that mastered the art of “overdoing it.” I think my sisters and I turned out to be pretty nice people, which is amazing, because we were spoiled as all-get-out. (Is that a phrase?) I recall Christmases that would start at around 4AM and end at 7PM. None, however, was more epic than Christmas ’92.

Here’s my sister Danielle (Little De back in the day) literally trapped in a pile of gifts. “Albie! Albie!” We mimick. “You’re so cute!” She’s clearly saying HELP ME.
(Will I ever figure out how to properly put home movies on my computer? This blog is so low class.)

My Mom says she absolutely hates this video and it makes her sick to her stomach, filled the with regret of overindulgence. I absolutely love this video. Every child should know that feeling of waking up and seeing a room filled with gifts just for them. It’s the best feeling in the world. But it does come with a price.

 Complications with overdoing it:

1) There’s a weird kind of depression that can come with overdoing it. I don’t really know how to explain it. One Christmas, I asked for Littlest Pet Shop, and on Christmas morning, I opened up, like, 20 Littlest Pet Shop. I felt overwhelmed by it, like I wished they had just gotten me a few so I could really enjoy those. I think I even complained, said something like “You got me too many Littlest Pet Shop.” What a bitch.

2) “Perfection anxiety” was also a factor. Because our Christmases were so epic and cozy, I was always terrified that something was going to ruin the ambiance. I would have nightmares every Christmas Eve that Mom decided to sleep while we opened gifts, or that Dad wanted to take us to some new, weird church before we could celebrate.

Most Christmases, we celebrated early so we could spend the real Christmas with family in Ohio. In fifth grade, my class play (Christmas at the OK Corral) was scheduled for “our” Christmas Eve, and since I didn’t want anything to invade that family time, I didn’t go. Then Mom said that a family friend was going to drop by on “our” Christmas to give gifts. I was so upset about the intrusion that I spent the whole fake Christmas Eve crying and watching Rescue 911. I still regret not going to that play. I loved the songs. I used to sing them in the shower.

3) What is the realistic aftermath of all of this? Because once you open everything, you have to put it someplace. For years long after my sisters and I were grown, every single room in my parent’s house had toys in it. A few years ago, my sister decided that we were going to spend a few consecutive weekends de-hoarding. She was ruthless. We looked through bags and boxes of things, many which had been given to us during the holidays. Liz said, “We don’t need this. This is dirty, it needs to be thrown away. This can go to Goodwill” while Mom moaned and moaned about Christmas ’92. What would we have said if we could have seen a video of the future while we were indulging in our overindulgence that fated Christmas morning? “Albie! Albie!”
(Do I need to explain why I put this here?)

Approach #2: Make Stuff

It’s hard to find original gifts these days, especially if you live in a generic town with generic stores. (Yes, I could get Mom a Yankee candle, but I get everyone Yankee candles, and Yankee candles are everywhere.) It’s also frustrating how expensive the things are that are a little different and unique. Noticing this in my youth, I decided I wanted my friends and family to have personal, meaningful things, so I got crafty.

It started off easily enough with Christmas ornaments. Then for my friend’s 18th birthday, I made her paper doll-puppets of herself. Then in college, I learned how to crochet, so everyone got hats.
De doesn't get a hat. Albie!
There was the time I made some of my friends Albion College black squirrel stuffed animals. (Black squirrels are all OVER that campus! It’s hilarious. Is it?)

Another year, I decided to make my best grad school friends shrunken elf heads of themselves. As you can tell by their expressions, it was the best gift they’ve ever gotten.

Last Christmas, I made my brother-in-law a calendar of pictures of his dogs photo-shopped into pictures of classic moments from history, like the Invasion of Normandy and The Monica Lewinsky Scandal.
Screenshot of February

Making gifts is fun, and the gift-giving itself creates memories. But it does come with a price.

Complications with making stuff:

1) It’s expensive. The thing is, you think it WON’T be, which is part of why you do it. You’re like, “I’ll save so much money.” But then when you take your fleece for the tie blankets up to the counter at the craft store and the lady is like, “That will be $50,” you’re like, “What now?”

2) It’s time consuming. Just like with the expense factor, you have this idea in your head that it will be easier to just make something while you watch your Arrested Development DVDs than it would be to spend time and energy at the mall. But then when you’re on your 15th hour of sewing squirrel legs together and you have multiple pin pricks on your hands and you can’t find that needle that got lost in the couch, you wonder if maybe you should have just spent two hours at the mall.

3) I would say “being creative enough” but that’s not really a problem for me! Hahaha! *Flips hair* *Judges non-creative people *

4) Going along with that last one, there’s the narcissism factor. Is this gift really for the person you’re making it for, or is it also for some sort of affirmation of your own worth? Sometimes, I think I just want people to be impressed with the weird shit that I make them. At the same time, I know that they’re probably thinking, “Why is Brigette so weird? I really just needed new socks.” I don’t even care if they’re thinking that though, because I need to hear the other side of it: “Wow Brigette, you’re so creative! I love you!” Like what is ANYONE going to do EVER with paper doll-puppets of themselves?!

Wow, I feel like this blog hasn’t been helpful at all, when we really know the purpose of these entries is to find SOLUTIONS! (?) But don’t worry. I’m creative, so I’ll just pull something out of my ass. I got it.

Approach #3: THEMES!

Everyone gets pajamas. BOOM. Everyone gets monogrammed luggage. BOOM. Everyone gets slippers. BOOM. Everyone gets gourmet coffee and a new mug. BOOM. Everyone gets shrunken elf heads of themselves BO— what? Everyone gets a computer program that tells them when they’re going to die. No—Everyone gets an empty jar that’s personally decorated and says “Farts” on it so they can put their farts in a jar. OH MY GOD, I’VE LOST IT!

Okay, I need help. What strategies do YOU take to Christmas shopping? What are your thoughts on overdoing it (or underdoing it), making your own gifts, and themes? You need to give me ideas NOW. I’m leaving soon to go to the mall to drink a gingerbread latte and pretend like I’m shopping. I can’t come back empty-handed.


  1. I still love those elf heads. We were thrilled. Also, I had a more tragic gingerbread fail this year than the year where we had to go out mid-mixing to get ginger . . . Christmas stinks without you. So I can be of no help with gift ideas, but I think they'd come easily if we could be shopping together.

    1. I bet we could if we put our heads together, Beth, just like with those sentence trees! I'm sorry you had a cookie fail, but thank you for reminding me of the gingerbread evening. I still think that frantic cookie making so that the boys would hang out with us is one of the golden moments from that year! Hah.

    2. Except shopping would be even more fun that sentence trees! I also forgot to mention that I LOVE that black squirrel dolls. I have a weird obsession with the black squirrels. We don't have them here, but there are some in the parks we hike in and I think they are WAY cuter than regular squirrels.

    3. Oh yeah Beth, black squirrels are FAR superior!

  2. Brig, Raph and I just read this through a couple of times... it's getting better every time!! This was the first entry Raphael has read and he was super impressed by your witty writing. We're still waiting for that fateful day when you decide to move to the city... until then I'm still laughing, "ALBIE!!!"

    As for Christmas gifts, I opt for the themes: one year it was magazine subscriptions, sometimes it's all-French minded (gifts from Dijon, French wine, etc). We're also big on buying things from our trips and giving them away for Christmas. And I love to cook things and gift! Homemade strawberry jam??? Delish and el cheapo.(Thank you, Barefoot Contessa!) This year, I'm gonna try my luck at homemade nutella. (If we were to make it more French, we would offer a pack of cigarettes... a real French petit dej!) Hope to see you at Christmas for a game of rummy!!!! xoxo

    1. Aww thanks so much, Nads & Raph! And those are all fabulous ideas--I feel reborn! I hope we get to see each other too! Rummy-- YES!!!! *Hugs*

  3. Well, I do still have my stuffed head. I keep it in my office, and every once in a while someone comes by and asks me what it is, and then I have a story for them. Strategies? I like to give people pictures of their own face with "SHOW-OFF" written in all red caps. BOOM.

    1. Aw that's precious it's on your desk! Do you tell people it's from the daughter you abandoned? Do you think that joke will ever get old? And exactly how big do you make those "show-off" pictures? Nothing smaller than an 8x10 would say "Merry Christmas."