This year, I offered an "opt-out" program for Christmas gifts. Anyone in my family who wanted to not exchange gifts with me anymore (for convenience purposes) was welcome to let me know and not send me anything. It turned out that both of my grandparents took advantage of this, which significantly cut down the amount of weird crap that I got this year (and, also, the amount of cash). The only things, in fact, that I received besides cash were: (1) two decks of Hawaii souvenir playing cards from my mom, (2) two pot holders from my mom, and (3) Napoleon Dynamite on DVD from my brother (presumably; he said he'd try to remember to ship it Monday). My mom has this clever trick that, after 23 years, I still fall for. She starts out with this elaborate story like, "I'm making the OT/PTs (occupational therapists and physical therapists; i.e., her coworkers) quilted pot holders for Christmas this year. Here are the ideas for designs that I've had. Which ones do you think are best?" So, then, I tell her which pot holder I like best, and voilà, I get pot holders for Christmas. I'd kind of like to think that, after falling for this trick nearly every Christmas, I'd eventually pick up on it, at not be surprised when I receive a package containing pot holders.
I actually put some effort into deciding what to give people this year. My mom lamented that, without my vast array of board games, they just have to rent a lot of movies to stay entertained now. So, I got her a variety of two-player board games that she could play with Dad. I even picked a couple themed ones, like a Hawaii-themed one for my Hawaii-obsessed mom and an insect-themed strategy game for my entomologist father. For my dad, I got Knights of the Old Republic, since he really liked Neverwinter Nights and does best at games where he doesn't need really fast reflexes (though he seems to be doing well enough in Doom 3, which surprises me a lot). For my brother, I got a CD and a Best Buy gift card... my least creative gift. He usually does a lot better job at anticipating what I'd like than I do for him, and it's even harder because he has two roommates that are likely to already have anything I'd buy for him. Finally, for my always frustrated, sleep-deprived, and perpetually stressed-out officemate, I got a Despair "desktopper" (desktop picture frame) of Adversity: That Which Does Not Kill Me Postpones the Inevitable.
And now the sad story. My dad's gift for my mom was to install a new counter in the middle of their kitchen, something she has been wanting ever since they got the house. To pay for this, he sold a portion of his collection of Magic cards on eBay. He sent them via US Postal Service... uninsured. He sent them more than two weeks ago, and the buyer still had not yet received them. It's... so depressing. I really hope the guy on the other end isn't just trying to scam my dad; scamming someone out of money for Christmas gifts is about as low as you can go, no matter what religion you are or aren't.