Sunday, December 16, 2007

White Elephant Gift Haven...

As the Christmas season descends on us so comes one of the best traditions of all time – the White Elephant Gift Exchange. I love these exchanges because, in a way, it mocks everything that consumerism has, well, consumed of the goodness of Christmas. White Elephant gifts are everything that Christmas presents aren’t ‘supposed’ to be: impractical, ugly, and cheap. But in the gift exchange the important thing is the game, the giving, the interaction that friends have while cajoling, arguing, and negotiating their way into possession of a magenta, crystal candilabre that they would normally cross the street to avoid. It’s great fun.

It is because of this that I took great delight in finding the White Elephant Gift Haven. That might not be that ‘actual’ name of the store but it should be. I don’t know the name of the store but if you ever find yourself in Meulaboh, Indonesia go down Natsional until the road splits in a round-a-bout. Go left and it’s about the third store on your right next to Hollywood Photo. You won’t regret it.

Let me first tell you the gifts that we didn’t buy for the gift exchange. We did not buy a stuffed animal head toilet paper holder. We did not buy the exact miniature replica of a real grocery cart. We did not buy a big, stuffed Christmas tree pillow, glass fruit, a large orangie-yellow teddy bear holding a red lace heart, nor a plastic light-up frame that flashed pictures of Mecca. We did not buy an enormous bouquet of neon flowers, a plastic clock that shows Indonesians praying, nor the most hideously iridescent pink and blue vases too small to hold flowers.

I had a hard time passing up the ‘phone bed’ which was a pastel taffeta and lace box that your landline phone could sit in with the matching receiver decoration but we eventually did settle on:
1) A wind-up, cuddly mouse
2) An aqua blue, metal, unicorn wind chime
3) A Watermelon-head-Hello-Kitty Door Dangly

I would like to say that these were the highlight of the gift exchange but, alas, they were not. They were beaten, hands down, by a gift that I initially unwrapped and then promptly lost. Once out of the wrapping the box read: Cattle World. And, inside, was a small toy water buffalo that, when turned, on walked and moo-ed, and shot sparkly red lights out of it’s eyes. It was like the demon water buffalo from Hades. It promptly had a show down with the wind-up mouse. The mouse lost. I loved it. I lost it and ended up with fireworks…sparklers. The kind we had when we were kids before someone with enough sense decided that maybe these should be illegal considering how flammable California is generally and how many children end up with burns in hospitals specifically.

After we had sorted the gifts we all danced to the Stones singing 'You Can't Always Get What You Want' at the top of our lungs. And, water buffalo or no, watermelon-head-Hello-Kitty door dangly or no, everyone went home happy and that is the point.

'You can't always get what you want
You can't always get what you want
You can't always get what you want
But if you try sometimes you just might find
You get what you need.'

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