Tuesday, November 30, 2010

All I Want For Christmas...Is For Someone Else to do my Christmas Shopping...

As THE Holiday draws nearer, I find myself in a panic (I find myself in this state more and more, these days) trying to figure out what to buy for everybody in my family.

For instance: What do you purchase for a mother-in-law, who is about as close to being a living saint as someone can get? To give you an idea of her worthiness of sainthood, let me tell you about the time that she won the baking contest for me. Not just "won the baking contest", but "won the baking contest for me".

I am a horrible cook. Really. I'm not fishing for compliments or trying to prompt you to say "no you're not" or "oh, you do just fine": I have no skill in the kitchen, whatsoever. Just ask poor MacG what he had for dinner last night. To make it worse, my sister-in-law is a professional chef. A really good chef, too!

I acknowledge my lack of kitchen mojo with equal parts shame and exasperation - with myself. So, when my Mother's Group was having a baking contest I panicked ( I told you!). I decided to ask my mother-in-law to teach me how to make her failsafe, delicious, (excuse the pun here) cannot fudge up recipe for fudge.

Let's just say that I can fail even the failsafe recipe, when it comes to standing anywhere in the vicinity of stove or oven. Or a spatula. I have some success with the microwave, but even that isn't always a given. The first batch was gritty and inedible. So, looking at me with pity (because I was perhaps the only person she had ever seen who screwed up the fudge recipe - or maybe it was all in my imagination. I doubt it) my MIL offered to help me with another batch.

We both looked skeptically at batch #2 and decided to let it sit overnight, as if the Fudge Fairy was planning on making an appearance and BAM! turning the lumpy, bumpy, mass of chocolate into something fabulous.

I did not hear from my baking tutor the next morning. The baking contest was scheduled for just after dinner. At around three in the afternoon, the doorbell rang and who did I find on my porch? Why, it was Saint MIL: holding a large tray of the most beautiful Peanut Butter Blossoms that you've ever seen. You know: the cookies with the Hershey's Kiss pressed artfully into the center?

I won the baking contest with those cookies. It was a contest where you put in $5 and get to take the pot if your dessert is selected as the King of Desserts - so I made around $50.

I felt guilty afterwards and told them that I was not the artist who created the beautiful blossoms. In all honesty, they knew me, so they should have realized that such a fantastic creation couldn't have emerged from my impossibly unskilled fingers. They were forgiving and sweet and told me to take Saint MIL out to lunch. I think I did, I can't remember.

I sure hope I did.

SEE? How do you find a Christmas gift for someone like that?

One year, I was so stumped about what to get my grandfather that I got him a rock.

Yep, a rock.

It wasn't just any rock, though. I actually had to get military clearance to remove this rock from a U.S. Army Base.

My grandfather found The Rock when he was stationed as a Major on the base, in the 1960's. He found it at a nearby rocky mountain just had to have it, so he and one of his fellow army dudes loaded it onto their jeep and dumped in in a field near the officer's quarters. He loved the darn thing, because it had a white circle on the top of it, with a little river of white spilling down the side.

He thought it looked like God, Himself, had set a big white paint can on it while painting the clouds.

Fast forward 40 years and The Rock was still where he had left it, but was now a part of the landscaping in the parking lot for the base Post Exchange.

My grandfather used to take us to visit The Rock. He would make us salute it.

I'm not joking.

I managed to get clearance from the Commanding Officer of the base (wow, did I feel rad and all Army-like writing that!) through a long string of emails and phone calls, to remove The Rock. However, it literally weighed a ton and had been sinking into the dirt for four decades.

The Commanding Officer arranged for us to have a tractor and a tractor driver, too. They met Me, MacG and Sis on sunrise, three days before Christmas - and pulled our gift out of the PX parking lot island. It dropped into the bed of MacG's truck and almost blew a hole right through it.

On Christmas Eve, my brother met us at grandfather's house and we snuck (as much as people can sneak a monolith through the bushes at midnight) it into the front yard, using brute strength and a wheel dolly. Thus completed Operation Rock Rescue.

You have never seen a reaction like his, when we led our grandfather out the front door in the morning. Tears streaming down his well worn face, he yelled "My ROCK! My ROCK!" He wrote a song about it later. He also wrote a poem.

And that, my friends, was the perfect gift for a man who already had everything...

So, uh, what am I supposed to get everyone this year?

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