'Twas four days before Christmas when I finally attempted to do some gift shopping. Three stores and about $200 later the present score stood at Angie:6, Family:0. I had a bad case of shopper's block, at least when it came to other people, and decided the best route would be a stack of gift cards purchased when I got to my hometown for the holiday.
I had visited the local Target the night I got into town, but still felt like I might let some folks down. My inner-Santa was starting to come out. On Christmas Eve morning I went to the Salvation Army with my Aunt Sheila where I spotted a yellowed package containing a jock strap that was likely older than me.
Antique Roadshow? Maybe. Gift for my brother? Definitely. I threw it in my cart along with a Jane Fonda workout video circa 1983, a bar of soap, a pair of black angels, an onion blossom maker, a mini totem pole, a butterfly thermometer, and a Sesame street doll dressed like a mailman (which by the way still had the tag on.) I took my very special gifts back to my Aunt and Uncle's house and wrapped them happily while a couple of cousins eyed me with suspicion.
Except for my poor 7-year old nephew, who looked a little stunned and confused when he unwrapped a worn story book for someone half his age, my family got a much needed giggle while I passed out the real presents. I then declared I would spend the course of each year seeking out the oddest, and perhaps junkiest pieces of crap for their Christmas presents.
The rest of the holiday weekend was interesting. I'm used to living alone and staying at my mom's apartment where it's just the two of us. We were both at her favorite sisters' house where there's constant chatter, TV's blaring with Spanish programs in the background, and the Christmas tradition of my uncle Ruperto strumming a guitar with his countrymen and singing some incoherent Mexican songs about life on the ranchero.
It was all at once brutal and charming.
On Christmas morning while my aunt slaved away in the kitchen making tamales, my uncle came out of the bedroom wearing a bandanna around his neck. He walked in the kitchen and after spotting me making food (it was breakfast for my mom) he said, actually giddy, "Angela what are you making?"
Even though I've known this man since the age of five, I've never ceased to be frustrated at his old-world notions of what a woman should and shouldn't do. My reply?
"Look Pancho Villa, I know you get awfully excited seeing a woman in the kitchen. I'm out of here in five minutes and I'm not coming back."
"Pancho Villa? No, John Wayne."
"They're both dead, whatever."
"John Wayne's dead?" He was geniunely stunned.
"He died like 30 years ago. You really didn't know?"
He didn't. I had to be the one to break the news. On Christmas Day.