For most birthdays, Father’s Day, Christmas and the like, I sit down with my children and help them make a craft for the recipient. Even when they were toddlers they made their own crafts. One year I painted their little bottoms and made two impressions on paper. These colorful, cheeky prints formed a “butt”erfly.
I’ve always been partial to gifts made with love. That is something my mom instilled in me. However, it wasn’t always like that. One year my mother sensed the world might have been getting tired of potholders, candles and paintings produced by her budding artist, me. She tripped the light fantastic that year. She went, “hog wild” and allowed me to participate in the “Secret Santa” shopping at our local department store.
Mom dressed me to the nines in my cable knit pantyhose, plaid holiday dress, patent leather shoes and hair that seemed like hours to curl. We went downtown to my favorite place, Santa Land. When we arrived at this magical and wondrous heaven my mother met with one of Santa’s helpers. She slipped the helper some cash, filled out a few forms and I was well on my way to retail nirvana.
I vaguely recall having the liberty and freedom to actually independently, privately shop for my gifts. Well, it was somewhat independently. While in Santa’s special store one of his corduroy clad helpers accompanied me, much like a personal shopper, to ensure I picked out the perfect gift. She was also there to ensure I didn’t spend more than my mother allocated.
The helper wrapped my gifts. They were presented to my mother who placed them under our tree when we returned home. My fingers rejoiced knowing I would be making less potholders on my metal loom and sewing far less crafts for gifts that year. It was a grand day and I was very proud to have selected my own gifts.
The big day, December 25, finally arrived. While I loved opening presents from my family and Santa, I have always been one to enjoy giving gifts more. I was excited to have my family open their gifts. I’m sure they were intrigued as well since no one knew what I selected.
My father picked his first. The pre-opening theatricals were engaging. He was setting up excitement and playing along, humoring my enthusiasm. He slowly opened the gift. And once opened he found himself the proud owner of a new soap on a rope.
My dad had a private shower. While he is a tad clumsy, he really had no used for soap tied to a rope that he would never wear around his neck. But many of those secret Santa gifts are just inexpensive trinkets and peculiar items purchased so the child can show love and admiration regardless of the value of the gift.
But that wasn’t the kicker with this gift. Yes, it was soap on a rope. But it was decorative soap on a rope. This soap was in the shape of a pig. Yes, it was a light pink soap, affixed to a rope, in the shape of a pig. And this particular soap, much like and an embossed bar of Ivory soap had a special message inscribed message. This pink soap, in the shape of a pig, affixed to a rope, said, “MALE CHAUVINIST PIG.”
My mother burst into laughter. My father chuckled too. I had no idea what was so funny. I thought it was a fabulous and practical gift. Once my mother explained it to me I was rather mad at the department store and that helper for her clear lack of “help” in this situation.
Mom had always said the gifts offered in Santa’s retail store were trash. In all previous years she never allowed me to shop secretly. And this year, the year of the soap on the rope, was the nail in the coffin. That was my first, and last, year privately shopping with Santa’s helper funded by my mother.
I still believe homemade gifts far outweigh the value and sentiment of a purchased gift. Although, I do enjoy the humor and irony in our classic family story of dad’s pig-shaped soap on a rope.