Did I ever mention that I have so many Aunts, Uncles and Cousins that I have absolutely no idea how many? Really. Math just isn’t my thing. Gift giving was big in the clan, not sparkly spectacularly wrapped presents with bows. Nope. Real treasures, with a story tucked inside each one. Once an Uncle dropped a box of ducks off for a gaggle of the Bohemian children (God save the ducks) another regularly tossed empty boxes at us and we absconded with Gram’s Good Scissors (pinking shears, they made ridges like tiny rooftops when you cut with them). Another brought baby alligators from time to time, they lived (briefly) inside a special little plastic cage with a fake palm tree so they’d think they were still in Florida. There were kittens and puppies and baby cousins, all eclipsed in my storyteller mind by countless oddities: A mink shawl with the ferrety heads still attached, ancient books with flowers or locks of hair pressed between pages, huge old pocketbooks filled with live toads, chocolate covered ants and the aforementioned Boomerang Monkey.
For many years after escaping Bohemia, I gave the most elaborate and gorgeously decorated gifts. It was a sin (as Gram would often say) to open them. Nothing contained in those shimmering, bow laden boxes could ever compare to the glittering promise of the unwrapped package. Still, it was my brief bow to normal gifts.
It couldn’t last. In a nutshell – genetics, you can run but you can’t hide. Normal is simply an illusion within The Glitter Globe, somewhere deep in the DNA something deteriorated to the point that I succumbed to the genetic call of the wild. I like to think I kept it classy at first, gift boxes of live butterflies that flew out when the lid was lifted. A brief gift, but oh, so memorable! My niece was only four at the time I sent her a package filled with 14,400 Mardi gras beaded necklaces – but I guarantee you she remembers. (That took serious effort, do you have any idea how vigilant you need to be when choosing Mardi gras beads for a child? Trust me.) There were personalized ketchup bottles, pirate hooks, bug candy (real bugs but of course), punk rock wigs and tiaras. My all time favorite to date was sending a flying squirrel to my nephew. The family dog was certainly enthusiastic. Remember I was going for memorable and I’m certain my sister still remembers, I know this because she’s still not speaking to me.