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Friday, February 10, 2006

Stocking stuffers

After weeks of missed connections and delays by Georgia's overzealous customs officers, I finally received a package my father meant for me to receive before Christmas. It contained stockings for me, my girlfriend, and my brother, stuffed with "goodies."

There are quotes around "goodies" because of the tradition in my family of including items in stockings that are intentionally cheap and useless. This tradition exists because there was a time when the items were no less cheap and useless, but this was not exactly intentional (hey, it's easy to delight little kids by giving them whatever you have lying around); but since our family started sharing the task of stuffing stockings (each member is assigned another's stocking, but we often add to other stockings as well), a subtle competition has emerged for inappropriateness and ridiculousness of items.

Nowadays, a choice item--a nylon eyemask, say, or a Pez dispenser not accompanied by any Pez candy--will earn an explosion of laughter from my brothers and sisters and father and stepmother. But it's not always clear just what blend of irony and sincerity is behind some selections.

Here are some of the contents of the stockings my dad sent me:

  • tote bags printed with my stepmother's name from a spa
  • tiny bath salts package taken from "Orion Hotels"
  • small pad of paper made from coffee plant fibers
  • baseball cap from the reunion of my stepmother's childhood summer camp (if only I were 15 again... this is perfect ironic wear and would score huge points with the ladies)
  • one of those tiny packs of cards from an airport gift shop that carries a photo of a local icon (in this case, a San Francisco cable car)
  • Moses action figure
  • Esalen Institute baseball cap printed in earthy hippie colors (sage green, dusty lavendar--I'm pretty sure some guy in Big Sur with a beard, a Prius, a fondness for yerba mate and a nature-related adopted name has patented the Pantone codes for these)
  • Esalen Institute t-shirt (burnt ochre) with a generically Native American sun/mandala graphic

I wish the FedEx guys who carried these across 12 time zones could have known what was inside!

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Anonymous Katy on Fri Feb 10, 03:47:00 PM:
The last few years, Santa has variously forgotten the stockings on Long Island, forgotten the stocking stuffers on Long Island, or forgotten both on Long Island, so we've ended up with some strange stockings and stocking stuffers. One year the stocking were stapled-together grocery bag cut-out thingies, and this year the contents were purchased at the CVS in Porter Square and "a sketchy liquor store on Mass Ave," according to my dad (aka Santa's helper). What did we get? Toothpaste and scratch-off lottery tickets. Not a bad haul.