Probably because we were living in Montana at the time and we already had lots and lots of snow to play in.
My father was stationed at Malmstrom AFB and I was a Brownie.
And even though I wasn’t dreaming about snow I was, however,spending a lot of time dreaming about the Brownie Christmas gift exchange…an exciting concept for almost-seven-year-old-me.
For the gift exchange we were supposed to buy a present for a girl. It was supposed to be a dollar gift, a sum that seemed like a fortune to me at the time.
I shopped for my gift with great and serious intent. I tried to choose but it was so hard. What gift to purchase for this momentous event?
I finally decided on a little doll. She was awfully cute. Little plastic molded on hair, a little plastic heart-shaped stand for her little plastic feet to slide in.
Oh, she was a beauty.
And I could scarcely contain myself in the days leading up to the Brownie meeting.
But finally the day arrived and my Mom left me at the meeting. Our Brownie leader carefully affixed little numbered slips of papers with scotch tape to each gift. I handed her my gift proudly. Did I mention the little molded on high heels the doll was wearing?
I was hoping that Susan would get my little gift in the exchange. I really liked Susan. She had long, curly brown hair and a gap-toothed smile and I was certain we would be best friends forever.
The meeting and the craft and the refreshments dragged on and on and on and on.
It felt like forever to almost-seven-year-old-me.
But the moment finally arrived and we all drew little folded-up pieces of paper from a shiny, green plastic bowl . The number on your slip of paper told you which gift you would receive. I got number 8.
The Brownie leader handed out the gifts. Number 8 was a box wrapped in red Santa Claus paper. There was a little red curling ribbon bow tied jauntily around the box.
I could hardly contain my excitement.
But I did.
I watched each Brownie open up her gift. What riches! There were some Christmas coloring books, one girl got a big box of crayons, there were barrettes and a hairbrush shaped liked Santa Claus. After each gift was opened the giver would proudly say “I picked that out!”
My gift finally got opened and although Susan didn’t get that number, the Brownie who received it opened her eyes wide in excitement. She fingered the little molded on hair and her mouth made a little “O” of enthusiasm. “I picked that out!” I told her proudly.
Finally it was my turn. I was almost last so it seemed like I had been waiting forever.
I carefully un-wrapped the Santa Claus paper.
I lifted the lid off.
Oooh. Tissue paper. I had tissue paper in my box. It was white and rustly.
All the little Brownies gathered around the box to watch me fold the paper back carefully.
And there on the tissue was a set of three little girl white panties.
I looked again.
Surely this could not be correct.
Surely someone did not give me UNDERWEAR for the Brownie gift exchange.
But someone did.
We all just sat and looked at the underwear for a minute. Or ten minutes. I’m not sure but it felt like an eternity. My Brownie leader tried to be enthusiastic, “oh my, now you will have some nice new underwear for Christmas, Jenny!” but I have to be honest that my joy didn’t match her perky, happy voice.
I wanted to cry.
But I didn’t.
No-one spoke up and said “I picked that out!” so I never knew who actually gave the gift of underwear.
The final two girls opened their little gifts and neither of them received underwear. I don’t remember what they got but I’m certain it wasn’t white and stretchy.
And I’m certain that the song “White Christmas” wasn’t written for a brown eyed Brownie who got white underwear in a gift exchange but this is often what pops into my head when I hear this song…
“I'm dreaming of a white Christmas,
with every Christmas card I write
May your days be merry and bright,
and may all your gifts of underwear be white.”
An Octopus' Garden
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