Monday, December 29, 2008

The stealing presents game

Every year I go to a couple parties where the guests are instructed to bring untagged gifts to participate in a gift exchange. Sometimes there's a theme; there's nearly always a price limit. You get your gift by participating in the present-stealing game (see thorough description here).

I grew up in a house where there were just the two of us kids, and there wasn't much competition between us for toys. We tended to draw out the gift opening as long as possible, with one person opening something at a time while everyone else watched.

So two years ago, this game was new to me. I was disoriented by the speed, the competition, the-- hey, wait a minute! You just TOOK that right outta my lap! But I really wanted to keep it!!

This was a party with my sister-in-law (a truly delightful person who would never steal your gift if it weren't expressly part of the game) and a number of her friends (generally very nice, except perhaps when it comes to gift-stealing). The game began and I soon found myself holding a lovely duvet-style throw with snowflakes all over it. Perfect!

But it was not to be. I sat bewildered as the throw was whisked away and something not nearly as good was dumped in my lap instead. (Oy! Candles!) Getting into the spirit of things, I soon stole it back. It could not last, however, and the snowflake throw went to someone else, someone absurdly deserving who was planning to cuddle her toddler and infant son in it. It would be churlish of me to still want the throw, but I showed all the skill of a toddler myself in hiding my disappointment. (They even teased me about this the next year.)

A few days later, opening gifts at my sister-in-law's, I was surprised to find a package for me from my mother, who wasn't even there. (Our two families get on fine, but live in different states, so we drive a lot around the holidays.) Yes, it was the identical snowflake throw, just for me! It seems my mom remembered my story of the duvet that got away, and had enlisted my sister-in-law as her shopping agent (Mama was the best shopper there ever was), who found another one to give to me.

It's the last Christmas gift my mother got me. Last year she was too ill to shop, and this year she's not here.

Now I play the present-stealing game with magnanimity. I cheerfully accept the ugliest candles-- although I do put up a good fight first, boldly snatching packages from laps. I know that sometimes, if you've been very good, and very lucky, you will get exactly what you want.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Why I haven't been writing

Yesterday I finally completed the last assignment for the online Irish course I've been taking from the City University of New York. I owe a great debt of thanks to instructor Eimear Ní Cheallaigh, whose encouragement and corrections have been so helpful. Although it's listed as a grammar course, the reading and writing assignments have been just as interesting. I don't think I ever considered a creative writing class in a foreign language, but it's great fun.

So our final assignment was to write an essay on the theme: Tá cúrsaí eacnamaíochta na tíre ina phraiseach faoi láthair. (The nation's economy is in a mess right now.) I decided it would be fun to write an essay in verse, and somehow it came out in limericks. (If you want to try this yourself, agus má tá Gaeilge agat, uirlis an-úsáideach é an bogearra WinGléacht, especially the wildcard searches to help you find rhymes.)

Abair slán, slán go deo leis an craic
Tá an pobal ag dul ina raic
De bharr baincéirí cliste
Tá na bancanna briste
Agus ní fágfar dúinn ach faic.

I nDetroit tagtar lá an breithiúnais
Tá an Triúr Mór i mbaol chlisiúnais
Níl an Chomhdháil ar tí
Iad a tharrtháil, dar fía
Tar éis blianta fada dhíolúnais.

Éíríonn ardfheidhmeannaigh níos ainfhéile
Agus a gcomhlachtaí ag titeamh as a chéile
Íoctar bónais ollmhóra
Don saghas sin tubaisteora
Ach is orainne atá an deirbhéíle!

Here's an English version in case your Irish is rusty ;^)

It looks like the good times are through.
We're all seeing red, feeling blue.
Those bankers so sly
Have bled the banks dry;
There'll be diddley squat left me and you.

In Detroit it is now Judgment Day
The Big Three may go bankrupt, they say.
They asked Congress for dough,
But they told them, "Hell, no!
You'd just fritter that money away!"

CEOs have no cause to complain
While their companies go down the drain.
Those mischievious jerks
Get commissions and perks,
But we're the ones feeling the pain.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

I'll have to think of something else

Have just determined that I cannot claim credit for coining the phrase "half-used Kleenex". Just as well, really, I suppose.