The boxes have begun to arrive---left quietly on the patio table by the cheery young folks from FedEx and UPS, and most have been scurried away to the hiding spots in Caro's realm upstairs. A little cloak of holiday secrecy is in the air, as the Christmas presents, stocking stuffers and small additions to the decor are opened and whisked away to await the season.
I NEVER get a headstart on presents. I just HATE to shop, and I'm the laggardy one, even if I HAVE IT IN MY HANDS two weeks ahead, thinking I'll send it TODAY, but oh, that's too early---no rush---it should arrive JUST in time for the birthday/anniversary/Christmas, etc. And then two days before, I hand out three times the freight money for whatever magic flies the presents to their intended.
Or not at all, and that's just so WRONG. Worst of all is losing the months-ago-bought present in the depths of THE ROOM, where sherpas fear to tread. I cannot impart to you the hopelessness of that room. Everything is piled in bags and boxes and grocery bags, toppling into corners and all thrown about every which-a-way---I go looking for the garment bags in March, find a lovely folded robe still in cellophane, luxurious and soft and warm, meant for the Christmas box to Georgia, and lurking in the dark way past decency. I just HATE when I do that, and sticking a gift card or a check into an envelope on that last-possible-date just feels unfinished, verging on up into the kingdom of TACKY.
And I don't think we'll EVER top last year's silly-present---Chris always finds some outrageously unfit gift for the Grandchildren---I think he likes to see DD grimace and say "DADDDDD-EE!" in a tone of fond exasperation and trying-not-to-laugh. Last year it was a rubber chicken, for our Kit, middle child of the Georgia clan---Chris has given her some of the silliest things---for example, a REAL frog, all taxidermied and tanned into a neat leather purse with a strap and a zipper---and in all the pictures of her baby brother's arrival, a lot of the hospital pics of the happy family gathered around Mommy's bed feature Mr. Frog in plain sight amongst the flowers and smiles.
But the rubber chicken---it made its appearance way late in the gift-opening one night during Christmas last year, and was received with delighted squeals from Our Girl, who punctuated every conversation with chicken squawks for the rest of the evening. The thing was yellow and rubber, like a buncha old recycled Playtex gloves, and the neck was a foot long, stuffed with a piece of PVC pipe which magnified and echoed and channeled the long AWWWWWKKKKKKKKKKKKK into ear-splitting dimensions. She'd let it fill its flabby tummy with air, then squeeze it bagpipe fashion between her elbow and side, giving us all the full effect of the blast. She was three. It was fun. The first time. The next forty decreased by an amusement factor of -10 each time.
Therein lay the next morning's unforgettable moment. They were staying at a nearby hotel with an indoor pool, and when they all arrived back next morning, all dressed and ready for breakfast and a day of fun, little Kit came in the back door and stood disconsolate and as droopy as the long tassels on her little Peruvian hat.
She stood huddled in her little purple coat, holding the chicken like a waiter's napkin across her arm, the now-pipeless neck hanging draggled and limp. Her Daddy had just. had. enough. about bedtime, and had performed a pipe-ectomy on Mr. Chicken while the children slept. Voiceless, spineless, unsupported, chicken hung mute and forlorn like the display in a French butchershop.
And Kit, a child of modern toys of the electronic age, pronounced her diagnosis:
"His BADDD-ries ran down!"