Guy at caroling party: Your boozy kiss good night was nutmeg-y and nice. The FLU (2003) I immediately came down with kept me on the couch for a week in a puddle of shivers and sweats. So were you going to call me or what?
Aunt Luisa: The GINGERBREAD-MAN BROOCH (2002) that plays a tune when the “Press Here” button is pressed, much like the gingerbread-man brooch you’re fond of wearing, stayed in the box through February. I felt conflicted about the gift, knowing I’d never wear it, but I was touched that you see yourself in me, and in me your love of seasonal jewelry that can be listened to. Ultimately, I put the brooch on for 10 minutes (so I could tell you that I wore it), took it off, and gave it to Mrs. Johnson in 7B, who wears it pretty much year-round. Not a regift in the traditional sense; Mrs. Johnson understands that you gave it to me, and asks me every day if you’re coming by, so she can be sure to unpin the brooch, hide it, and never accidentally mention it or any brooch-related topic in your presence.
Tracy: You tart. The BOOK OF NAUGHTY POETRY (2001), meant to be read aloud on a special date, is randy indeed. But I haven’t had use for it since Brad. I tried to donate it to the library book sale, but the volunteer wordlessly handed it back to me, her thumb hiding the cover illustration. So I ripped the cover off and threw the book out, only to hear Dylan and Owen Lerner quoting from it in giggle-whispers the following day in the hallway.
Xeryllen Success Systems Inc.: Temping for your company meant I could make rent, and for that I thank you. Did I want the KEY CHAIN/FLASHLIGHT (2000) emblazoned with the Xeryllen logo? No. One of the muffins from the party the temps weren’t invited to would have been thoughtful. Or health insurance. I did keep the key chain for a week, then I gave it to my nephew, who played with the flashlight for a few hours before the battery died. He buried it in a box of boy junk, where I fear it will never get the buzz-building brand exposure you’d counted on, or a new battery.
Mindy (or Cindy?): Sobbing quietly in a dentist’s waiting room two days before Christmas is horrible. YOUR SURPRISE HUG (1999) moved me. I heard you work for a dermatologist now, where you’re likely hugging people despite their inflamed eczema. Or maybe because of it.
Mom and Dad: I couldn’t have been more excited about the PHANTOM TICKETS (1998). But then Brad got called to a last-minute meeting in Vermont and I ended up selling the extra ticket to a grandfather from Cleveland. He knew all the words to all the songs, except the songs he kind of sang-hummed, and the songs he vigorously tapped out on the armrest. The 20 bucks you included for a fabulous post-show dessert went to my first pack of cigarettes in three years and some celebrity magazines.
Book-group Secret Santa: Thank you for the BREEZY CLIFFS™ AROMATHERAPY CANDLE (1997), the kind of gift that says, “I don’t know the person I’m giving this to, but I’ve got to buy something.” In the end, the candle exuded too much aroma and too little therapy. Tossed it.
Kate and Chuck: When I opened the COW-SHAPED ALARM CLOCK (1996), I must admit I felt no delightful suspense. That could be because I recalled the COW SLIPPERS (1995), the COW-SHAPED NIGHT-LIGHT (1994), and the “MOOOSIC BOX” (1993) covered in faux cow hide. When we drove by those cows on the way to Lynn’s wedding, and I commented on the cows’ cuteness, I had no idea you’d be decorating my apartment for years to come. I’ve given everything to Mrs. Johnson in 7B, who frequently offers to surrender the cow slippers, if I “really need ’em back,” but nothing else.
IRS: I still don’t understand what it was for exactly, but getting the CHECK FOR $127 (1995) the week before Christmas was a thoughtful gift indeed. We bought a bottle of champagne and cigars and went ice skating. My boyfriend made a ring out of a cigar label and called it a “placeholder,” slipping it on my finger. Thank you for a dreamy day, you faceless, intimidating, monolithic merrymakers with your cold, warm heart.
Brad: Thanks for the PLACEHOLDER RING (1995), spontaneously crafted from a cigar label, which seemed like the most romantic gesture in the world. Over the years, as the label sat in my bathroom drawer, the magic has dissipated a bit. The thing I’ll remember from that day, I think, is your goofy attempt at skating, and that you’re a better skater than person.
Santa Claus: How I’ve treasured THE BIKES, THE GAMES, AND THE PUPPY (1970-present). Most of the toys were donated to thrift stores. Sadie died at 15, cysty, snappish, and adored. As far as this year goes, less stuff is fine. Maybe the number of the guy from that caroling party. No cigars.