Christmas Eve. It meant my grandma and grandpa’s house. It meant arriving at 4, eating at 5 and presents as soon as the last plate was cleared off and not a minute sooner. With five grandchildren, three siblings with spouses, two grandparents and every other year a great-grandma, you can imagine the present pile. It took up the whole back wall of the basement. Once IT started getting wrapped, I would inspect that pile with a suspicious eye.
I vaguely remember when it started, but most of my first memories come from pictures of weary, untrusting faces with hands shaking each box, peeling off a corner to peek into it. Another gift giver trying her best, and failing miserably, to disguise the laughter fighting to burst forth. All because of IT.
At first IT was just boxed and wrapped and tagged with some dodgy moniker. The ladies in our clan then decided that a more cunning disguise was needed. Gift opening now took on a devious nature as IT made the rounds from year to year. That cute snowman cookie jar? Could be hiding IT inside. That tiny red box? You could smoosh IT up inside. That giant red box? Merely a decoy to disguise IT. No one was immune. I remember someone bought a giant red teddy bear to match IT and a full 2 minutes going by before anyone realized the bear was donning IT.
IT was first given to my aunt by my grandma. A lovely, thoughtfully chosen gift. Or so she thought. Even years later she was baffled by the tears streaming down everyone’s faces as my aunt held it up. The following Eve, my aunt decided that payback was needed. She carefully and artfully wrapped IT up again in the same box and added it to that pile at the back of the basement. My grandma opened it and again was baffled by the tears streaming down our faces.
And so the passing of IT, from woman to woman in our family began. As new baby girls were born, someone in the family would be internally cheering. For we had a new recipient of IT.
IT made the rounds every Christmas Eve and did much more than make us creative gift givers. It brought us together in all its hideous glory. The laughter and the memories have stayed with us long after IT was retired to a shelf. Each of us had a turn or two with IT. Most of us spent the year trying to figure out how it would find its next home. One of us decided to wear it bravely. All of us remember it fondly.
The original, stylish horror in red, black, and white with ruffles. Preserved in glass for all eternity.