White Elephant 

The Hostess peered into the gift bag and carefully peeled away the tissue paper. She looked up at us, her guests, and giggled,
“A small bottle of champagne!” she held it up for us to see and reached back into the bag, extracting a tall, thin glass carafe with a cork top.

“Ohhh! What a lovely shape! What a nice size!” several crowed.

“You didn’t want this anymore?” one woman asked.

“No,” the regal, salt and pepper haired woman answered, “I just didn’t have space anymore and I realized what a shame to throw it away. It just sat there in my pantry collecting dust.”

Several nodded in agreement. Didn’t we all have items like that in our pantries?

I looked at the other guests at the table. Did they not see? No one expressed alarm, no one commented. Everyone beamed at each other and waited for the next woman to open her present. I held back from commenting. I didn’t know these ladies well enough.

The tall, thin greyhound-like woman ran a manicured nail under the taped paper.

“Look!” she exclaimed, “a mini espresso maker!”

The box depicted a small, blue painted, metal, mini stove-top double espresso maker.

The previous owner laughed, “I just loved the color, but it doesn’t fit my kitchen scheme anymore.”

My armpits stuck together and I felt the beads of sweat dripping into my hairline. This had to stop. Two more gifts preceded mine. There was still hope someone did this properly.

The boisterous, red haired guest grabbed her gift. A one and a half meter by one meter rectangle, apparently a framed item. She had campaigned for this gift and with a bit of creative rules, it was now hers. She tore open the newspaper.

“Wow!” We all exclaimed. A framed cartoon map of our village.

“It was a lovely gift from an acquaintance, but I just didn’t have a place for it,” my friend sitting on my right explained.

Several of the other ladies eyed the print with jealousy. They would have possessed it now had it not been for a bit of rule bending.

This can’t be! I screamed inside my head. This was pitched to me as a WHITE ELEPHANT party! I mentally scrolled through the phone messages. The Hostess clearly said White Elephant. To my American mind this means wrapping whatever junk you have lying in your basement, the back corner of your house, or even from the trunk of your car and bringing that to pass on to the next unfortunate victim. Then they have to toss it or live with it in the dark recesses of their home until the next party.

Maybe Bavarian women neither buy this crap in the first place nor receive anything awful as gifts? Or they are so good at recycling that they dispose of anything tacky or unwanted immediately to the “Problem Garbage Center”? I purposely hold on to items for the chance of a White Elephant invitation. At least that’s my excuse for my borderline hoarding.

The next guest opened her gift. I choked on my bubble water. A white Villeroy and Boch ceramic terrine with blue, wide brushstrokes across the side and an a red ceramic apple grip on the lid. Absolutely charming. Something I would buy to serve festive, colorful summer casseroles in or perhaps to make my famous (to me) apple crumble. How was this a White Elephant?

“It’s from my mother-in-law,” was the gift giver’s answer. Enough said.

I cringed. My gift was next. I had wrapped it in heavy paper and tied the parcel with gold and silver ribbon, even using the ribbon shredding tool to produce dramatic fringe.

My friend opened the paper, screamed and quickly covered the items again.

“I can’t open this!” she cried.

“Do it! Do it!” they rest of the women chanted.

My mouth froze open in a long, silent laugh that started deep within and slowly worked its way from my belly button, stomach, diaphram, base of the lungs and to the windpipe where finally it picked up sound, gained momentum and erupted in a sudden outburst of crying and hysterical shrieking. Tears from my White Elephant anxiety and realization that I was the stooge of the party plus the main entertainment poured down my face. I didn’t care. I did it properly. And boy were they about to get it.

 

She elegantly opened the paper again and held up the prize.

His and her red satin, Christmas thongs (never worn). “Jingle Bells” for Her and “Jingle Balls” for Him.

A moment of shock.

Then the rest of the party howled and smacked the table as the victim discovered the music sensors above the pubic area of each panty.

“Oh my goodness! They are placed there so the music starts when you…”

More laughter.

“Where did you get such things?” one woman asked between gasps.

“My husband got them from a patient.”

“Male or female?”

“Female.”

 

Silence.

“Her brother owns a sex shop. And she was over 60.”

 

Although I’m not sure that makes the situation any better.

“At least she gave him the male and female thongs! Not just for him!”

“Why didn’t you throw them away?” asked another.

“Because I was saving it for a moment like this.” Why else, really?

 

Now I wonder which is worse. My husband receiving the gift from a female, over 60 year old patient. Or me holding on to them.

 

 

I recounted the experience to my sister the second I got home. Thankfully Oregon is nine hours behind Bavarian time.

 

“Dude, that’s messed up. I just went to a White Elephant recently. I picked the nicest wrapped package. You never do that.”

“What was it?” I asked.

“A super size bag of tortilla chips, salsa and a can of guacemole.”

“Well played,” I said.

“Right?  The tortillas were even generic.”

 

 

 

 

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