Christmas is a very exciting time for a little kid. They are just buzzing with energy and wonder and all that good stuff. But one year, it wasn't that way for me.  We used to do different sets of Christmas celebrations with different parts of the family, as many of you do. One year, when I was seven, I got a set of pot holders for Christmas.

Let me unpack that.

My Father's family is from the south. Lester and Barbara married in their teens and had traditional southern values. They went to church, they had a little bit of land, and they had about twenty dogs (I seem to remember one wore a diaper). We'd go out to their house for weekends pretty often as a kid. They were sweet people with the best of intentions, and loved us all dearly. But I  think that the world changed around them pretty quickly - and they didn't always change WITH the world.

It would have been about 1986.  Christmas came, and it was time to go out to the farm.  We had a big meal and lots of laughs, it was a good time. Then I remember we were leaving, and someone had forgotten to give us our presents. So we got strapped into the vehicle, and Mom said we could open our gifts right there in the car. I was so excited. What could it be? It was round, it was soft.... was it a doll? Maybe it was clothing? Maybe it was a sweet treat! It was time to find out!

The car was moving down the gravel road, and my sister was totally psyched about her present, but I don't remember what it was. So now that I see she's got a great gift, I know mine is going to be awesome, too! I ripped open the paper and saw... yes.

An oven mitt and two pot-holders.

Seven year old me was so confused. Why would someone give me an oven mitt? I wasn't even allowed to touch the oven! Wait, maybe it's a joke! I looked inside of it... it was normal. It definitely wasn't a toy.  It was just a normal set of store bought pot holders. All the expectation, all the excitement, all the Christmassy stuff... just deflated.  But then I felt instantly guilty. I didn't want to be bratty and ungrateful. I tried SO HARD not to cry, you guys. But after a few minutes.... the tears came. I was just crushed.

Mom asked me why I was crying and I showed her my gift. She gave me a sympathetic look and said, "Well, sweetie, it's probably for your Hope Chest."

I gave her a look and said, "What's a Hope Chest?"

"It's a southern tradition. You know your Grandma.  What would happen is, young ladies would get a trunk as a present, and then over the years they would fill that trunk with household items to be ready in the "hope" that they get married."

I immediately recoiled. Boys were Gross. They picked their noses and hit you at recess and had COOTIES.  I wasn't ever going to get married! I was going to be a Care Bear when I grew up and fight bad guys with Rainbow Brite. And even if I was going to get married, why would I need to be getting ready for it in first grade?!

Now, looking back on it, I see they were just trying to be considerate. And, knowing their background, and knowing they got married so young, they had no reason to believe I wouldn't get married young and have kids. It was a practical choice, sure. I never did get a Hope Chest, my Mom was a little more modern than that. But we did use those dark blue pot holders with the little white triangles for years.

But just a little note for you gift givers out there: maybe DON'T give oven mitts and pot holders to a kid in elementary school.  Just sayin.

Have you ever gotten a gift you didn't like? Tell me all about it!

Givingly yours,

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