I’m part of a friend group in Delaware, which is quite nice. It’s a way to get social interaction without the stress of feeling like you have fifteen people you should call up and schedule a time to hang out with.
My first week here they hosted a Thanksgiving dinner/$5 gift exchange, which they dubbed “Friendsgivingmas.”
For some reason I always struggle with these white elephant type gift exchanges, feeling like I should get something cool and impressive. And in the end I always buy something tea related, which I guess means tea is my love language, but that’s a little silly because lots of people don’t even like tea.
So this time I showed up with a funny mug I’d bought at a thrift store and some Oregon Chai chai latte mix. I thought it was fitting, you know, since i’m from Oregon.
I don’t know why I stress about things like this. There is always, always, something worse. Like this time, Matt opened the gift that Mike had brought. It was a hat.
“Hey!” said Matt. “This came from the dollar store!”
Matt knew this because his own present had also come from the dollar store, though he had actually spent the required $5 on it. Within the heavy box, tied up in duct tape and decorated with sharpie snowmen, were five jars of pickles and a pair of robot socks.
Noah ended up with a red Christmas mug in a clear plastic gift box. “You can give it to Dad and tell him you got it at The Branch ten years ago!” joked his brother Nate.
“What’s The Branch?” I asked.
“A Christian bookstore that closed down ten years ago,” said Nate.
“So…where did this mug come from?”
The other Nate, who had brought the gift, piped up. “I bought it back then, and have saved it ever since. You know, for something like this.”
A Christmas Carol
One evening we all went to see A Christmas Carol at a nearby church. I was excited, hoping for some nostalgia, as I haven’t seen the play since I was in it in 2011.
The nostalgia didn’t exactly come, because it was a different version. A musical version. I kept waiting for the Cratchit children to march around the table chanting “The goose! The goose! Yeah, the goose!” but it didn’t happen.
Still, I mean, I love musicals. So I wasn’t exactly disappointed.
The Christmas Mystery Supper
This was technically a youth group event, but most of the friend group members were there. We had a “mystery supper,” where you choose menu items based on funny, misleading names. You might think, for instance, that “Christmas cheer” would make a good appetizer, but when it arrives you find that it is nothing but some sprinkles.
My enjoyment of mystery suppers, I’ve noticed, has decreased drastically with age.
There was a gift exchange this time too, only it was for a $5-$10 gift.
Now, when you have to pack up everything you own once a month and shove it into your car, you become a big less enthusiastic about receiving gifts. At Friendsgivingmas I’d had the good fortune to snag a large bag of peanut m&m’s, which of course didn’t last very long. But at the mystery supper I deliberately chose a very small bag, hoping for something useful and portable, like a gift card.
Imagine my surprise when it turned out to be…nine chapsticks. With a festive note attached.
I was delighted.
See, there are certain things that I tell myself I will have when I am rich. Like pretty pajamas that match each other. Or a really nice, precise pair of tweezers. And one of the things I dream about is having enough chapstick that I never run out of chapstick. So that I can literally have a stick in every purse, every coat pocket, my sewing basket, and beside my bed.
(Yes, I grew up poor. And put myself through college without any debt. Hence the poor-person-you-can’t-treat-yourself-like-ever mentality, LOL.)
I was terrified that someone was going to steal those nine precious chapsticks away from me. But round after round passed, and I kept them each time. I wasn’t in much danger. No one really seemed to want chapstick. But I suppose if it had come down to chapstick or the Tupperware container of coal, the chapstick would have been stolen.
So now I feel quite wealthy. I even had an extra chapstick to give away to Angie one evening when she needed chapstick.
The funniest moment of the whole exchange, though, was when someone opened a square-ish packing and, what do you know! There was the red mug from The Branch again! Noah had re-gifted it from Friendsgivingmas.
We played several games, some sillier than others, and ended with musical chairs. The first and second place winners were promised a cash prize. Oh my!
Goodness, it had been years since I played musical chairs. Like, probably eighteen years. But eighteen years ago I was really good at musical chairs. Would my talent hold up?
We marched around the circle of chairs, stepping in time to the music, scrambling to our seats whenever the music stopped. Slowly the circle grew smaller and smaller. And I discovered that musical chairs is the opposite of mystery suppers. The delight of it does not diminish with age.
Then there were six of us, five of us, four of us, three of us. “You’re all crowding so close to the chairs!” One boy complained, watching us.
It was two of us, now. “This time, you have to stay an arm’s length away from the chairs,” said Johnny, who was organizing the game. “Actually, you have to hold out your arms like this. And you have to skip.”
So the two of us remaining, me and a girl in white I didn’t know, skipped around the chair holding out our arms like airplanes. All strategy was out the window at that point. If I was on the far side of the chair when the music stopped, I would lose. So I just had fun skipping.
Or rather, got second place, and a $10 prize. The girl in white got $20.
The Ugly Sweater Christmas Party.
Nate declared that it was an “ugly sweater Christmas party,” not an “ugly Christmas sweater party.” This mattered because the 5 lb wool monstrosity he wore was not Christmas-related at all. It was purple, with giant mismatched buttons and a tag that read “made with love by granny.”
I took my ugliest sweater and added a $0.25 bow from the thrift store.
This party was full of adults, so there was no mystery to the meal, and no one played musical chairs. There were, however, plenty of silly games. Like, one where we drew pictures on paper plates that we held on top of our heads. And one where we shoved balloons into pantyhose to make reindeer horns.
For the last game, we split into three teams and played a quiz game called “Family Feud.” We could discuss ideas as a team before guessing, but some people’s ideas were getting lost in the frantic shuffle. So I, utilizing my Prestigious Bachelor’s Degree in Communication, started writing down people’s ideas as they tossed them out, using the other side of a paper plate we’d used for the first game.
For the last round, we had to list the five worst gifts from “The 12 Days of Christmas.” I started frantically listing them. “Maids a milking!” “Lords a leaping!”
We won the game. No prize, but someone shouted “no fair, they have a writer on their team!” and that was a prize in and of itself.
The Progressive Christmas Supper
Finally, tonight there’s a progressive Christmas supper, where church members go over to each other’s houses to eat Christmas food together. One place serves dinner. One desert. One soup. Etc.
My landlord Rachel, who lives upstairs, hosted the soup course. So the whole friend group came here last, and ended up down in my and Angie’s quarters in the basement.
I’m going to be leaving Delaware in less than a week, so I won’t spend Christmas here. But the Delaware Christmas parties so far have been second to none.