When it comes to Christmas gifts there are many kinds of gift givers. The super thoughtful and tasteful giver, the over-doer, the terminally cheap, the crafter, the lazy ass(i.e. bottle of wine for everyone bought at the liquor store on the way over and maraschino cherries for the kids), the Scrooge (you know who you are…), and then there is Uncle G. Uncle G has an almost religious appreciation for the absurd. When I was eight, the man gave me a “Bleeding Potato” for Christmas. It was a bunch of tiny surgical tubing and odds and ends that, by combining with a potato, you could set up to look like a finale episode of ER. It was so rad.
Uncle G would go out of his way to find the strange and quirky and put it under the tree. His gift was never the big-ticket item, but it was always looked forward to, kind of like turning the corner at a freak show. “What could be next??? A two-headed snake?” You’d wonder aloud. He once gave me a T-shirt that featured a conga line of tiny lobsters walking along the bottom edge and every one of them had a thought bubble above its head that read “Oh shit.” A small, black scuba diver floated where a pocket might have been. The swear word was small enough that no teacher ever spotted it, so I was getting away with something… Every little boy loves getting away with something. I wore it until it disintegrated.
I have no idea where Uncles shop when wives are looking. Is there a store called Crazy Larry’s House of Weird Crap and Science somewhere? I remember unwrapping my gift, which sometimes was delightfully presented in a brown paper lunch sack. I would peer into the abyss crafted by a legitimate Frank Zappa fan.
“What did you get?” MILK would ask, looking up from her own bag with a slightly puzzled expression.
I’d hold out my prizes. “An eraser shaped like a brain and a fishing lure that looks like a tiny can of beer!”
“I got a gun that shoots glow-in-the dark fly swatters,” MILK would volunteer.
Smokey would hold up a day glow yellow squid that stuck to walls if you threw it.
“AWESOME!” We would cheer and go hug Uncle G.
This went on until we were in high school and became suddenly less fun and more broody. Then he began to campaign for a mutual no presents policy for Christmas. I think maybe Crazy Larry’s had closed or something. The no presents policy never stuck, the moms wouldn’t stand for it. Neither would MiLK, who always spent the weeks leading up to Christmas working on some godawful craft we were all forced to appreciate because of the thought and effort (if not skill) involved. A few of our cousins employed the no present policy (don’t worry, I won’t name names you cheap jerks) of their own volition. In any case the weird presents dried up and the world was a little sadder.
Then something magical happened. We finally had kids of our own and odd stuff began to appear again under the Christmas tree. The Madness is the only kid in town with her very own Candy Land style game piece, made out of a picture of her front and back, laminated. It has its own carrying case so she can show up to playdates looking like the shark she is. “You can be any piece you like, Jimmy. I brought my own.”
I guess Crazy Larry’s is back in business. Which is totally rad.