The very name is fun to say. Hell, elephant alone is fun to say. Good word. But White Elephants and the parties they throw are quite fun themselves.
Sunday night was our annual department holiday party. Hosted at Ernesto’s Italian Restaurant. We were complete with our own version of Bad Santa (great job Ted!) and another curious excursion into the land of white elephant parties.
Now, for me, White Elephant parties date back to when I was a child. My parents would occasionally host the Catlin Gabel faculty party. I have very fond memories of the fun and laughter and specifically Pru Twohy, one of the most dynamic people I have ever known. I should dedicate an entire blog to her as she’s on the short list of the people who helped shape me into the dashing and charming gentleman I am today.
So, as White Elephant parties go, ours was a bit tame. That’s to be expected at a work party. There were no coats made out of human hair nor any flutes sculpted to resemble a penis (both are actual White Elephant gifts from other parties I’ve attended. True.). But we had good fun.
I was early in the arena, third or fourth to pick. My strategy was simple. Go big. There was a five foot long tube colored like a candy cane. Heavy. Solid. I went for it. Inside, rolled in brown butcher paper was a wallpaper mural of a window overlooking the sea. The cheese factor of this gift was phenomenal. I was satisfied that not only had I found a unique item that I could likely regift without shame but also that nobody in their right mind would steal it from me. I was done.
Or so I thought.
Within three gifts my mural was nicked. Can you believe it? So I had the indignity of having to make the trip to the gift table a second time. Now, I just wanted to nurse my IPA and chat with folks. My work there was supposed to be done. But, ever the good sport, I cracked some jokes, tried to steal Bad Santa’s Rum and changed my strategy. Small. I wanted the smallest package.
What I found was small, about 4 inches square. Covered in black crushed velvet it looked out of place. The clasp for the box lid was a band of elastic and I unwound it to reveal a small penguin ornament on skis. With a blue glitter coat. Tasteful. I felt less safe with this gift than the mural. As tacky as I thought it was, it did have the glitter factor as well as the penguin factor. Two major components of bizarre obsession of the knick-knack crowd.
Sure enough. My bird got nicked quickly.
With my third, shameful visit to the table, I decided I would go ugly. There was a clumsily wrapped blue package. The weight made it feel like a jug of laundry detergent. Cool, I thought. Practical. My kind of WE gift. I was hoping it would be HE compatible as our washer’s very new, and quite fancy. Alas, I couldn’t have been more wrong. I was going to post a picture but it is really too hideous and might actually harm your computer. What I discoverd inside the ugly, blue bag was a gilded porcelain sculpture of grapes and fruit, in a cone shaped tower. Did I mention it was gilded? The sucker is heavy. It also is engraved on its base with the great artist named MITCHELL and dated 10-69. It’s almost as old as me. If I was more creative I’d come up with it’s thirty-eight year biography. Wanna give it a shot?
Well. At least I have a gift for my next White Elephant party.