The Awful Ornament and the Charlie Brown Hussy

I shudder when I think about last year’s Christmas ornament exchange.  Some experiences scar you for a lifetime.  Now ornaments make me cry.

What (you ask) could possibly go so wrong at a lovely soiree with women, eggnog, and high heels?  Apparently everything when you bring the white elephant gift of the century to a serious glamazon shindig.

It would have been easier if I had gotten tipsy or barfed on Keri’s new custom sofa, but my inadvertent lapse of civility, an errant blip of nonchalance, and truthfully, an all too honest snapshot of my too busy life played out in front of an audience of serious homemakers sent me into a puddle of self-imposed ostracism and shame.

It started with the first big “no no” of guest etiquette –I didn’t read the invitation well.  In my usual rush of holiday crazed intensity, I pinned the delicate invitation up on the jumbled board of Christmas cards, baby’s scribbles and pending items with a cursory glance.  When the actual night of the event was upon me, I picked up the card and realized in horror, that:

  1. I had to dress up
  2. I needed to bring a wrapped Christmas ornament to share
  3. I needed to bring an appetizer

All essential details I might wanted to have considered before the twenty minutes I had left to pull my crap together.  In a panic, I sent my husband to the store to pick up an ornament and gift bag while I scavenged through the pantry for some crackers and cheese to put on a platter.

Then I ran upstairs and with no time to shower, pulled on a pair of black pants, a nice sweater with only a few baby stains, high heels and smoothed my stringy hair into a ponytail.  I swiped on some lipstick, a hefty dose of perfume, a lot of deodorant and brushed my teeth. 

At least I wouldn’t offend anyone; I was mostly presentable as long as you didn’t get too close to smell the remnants of baby barf or poo.  I was sort of like a Monet –one of those images that look good from far away as long as you don’t get too close up and then it gets sort of fuzzy.

Tim returned as I hustled downstairs and I scooped up his purchase and stopped in my tracks.  It was a pale blue Charlie Brown ornament that read “Baby’s First Christmas.”  The cheap plastic trinket featuring the Peanut’s Gang was in a CVS box proudly displaying its bargain basement price of $4.99 in bold black letters that could not be hidden.   And if that wasn’t bad enough, the bag he brought back to wrap it in was a deep burgundy, slightly crinkled with green tissue paper and no ribbon.  AWESOME!

Dragging my heels, I walked across the street to the party with my cheeks flaming red.  My sweet neighbor Keri opened the door and I was greeted with a warm hug and ensconced into a winter wonderland of painstakingly applied graciousness.  Her home was beautifully decorated, spotlessly clean, and every toy from her two small children put away.  There were glorious garlands, petit appetizers and warm cider brewing; clearly Keri had gone all out to make this an upscale event.

Trying to be as blasé as possible, I casually put down my ornament in the pile, but I saw Keri glance at the ugly wrapping paper out of the corner of my eye and winced as her eyebrows raised in surprise.

I mingled around with the guests, all lovely stay-at-home mothers who brought divine home-made appetizers, had carefully coiffed hair, and matching stain-free ensembles.  The secret arsenal that takes down all working mothers is the feeling of domestic inadequacy which mommy’s at home generally excel at.  Their subtle ploy worked.  As each moment went by, my crackers felt more inadequate, my hair greasier, and I just prayed no one got close enough to smell me.

Then it was time for the exchange.  All the ladies gathered around a large pile of ornaments and one by one, either picked a gift or stole an open ornament.  I watched in terror as extravagant ornaments were carefully unearthed from frothy designer tissue paper.  These were the Nordstrom’s of ornaments –glass and feather concoctions with jewels and sparkles.  I reached for my wine and took a big gulp as tremors reverberated from my toes to my teeth.

My number came up and I sheepishly grabbed a bag, opened an ornament worth ten times the value of the piece of Charlie Brown awfulness I had brought and slumped back into the sofa.  Around and around we went until all of the ornaments had been claimed but one.

There sat my sad little burgundy bag.  It looked forlorn and trashy amidst all the glitz and glamour.  Finally the last lady, forced out of the prize offerings by an exchange thief gingerly picked it up and with her nose crinkled in disgust opened the gift.

A hush went around the room with a few titters and whispered cries of disbelief.  What kind of insincere, thoughtless woman would bring a white elephant gift to a serious exchange of this magnitude?  Clearly there was some prankster in the midst?

Keri quickly moved into caring hostess mode and claimed she just had to steal the baby’s first Christmas, even though her own baby was a girl child and we all knew the tacky ornament would never grace the branch of her lovely tree. 

I wanted to crawl in a hole and die.  I could hear the ladies whispering around me at the audaciousness of the horrible ornament.  I smiled and laughed and agreed that this brazen Charlie Brown hussy must be removed from the guest list.

About a week later I confessed to Keri that it me who was the perpetrator and the destroyer of the prestigious ornament exchange.  And we laughed and laughed and cried at the awfulness of it all.

Strangely enough, I haven’t gotten an invitation this year?  I can’t understand why?



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