the swap

Several years ago, at a family gathering, my cousin E told us all about a gift swap that soon became a July tradition. Usually played during the Christmas holidays, this swap fit nicely with our July get-together for my uncle's birthday.
The rules of the swap are that each member must spend ten dollars on a gift and wrap it. These gifts are put in a central location and then the players draw numbers to see the order in which gifts will be chosen. The person who draws #1 chooses a gift first and opens it and then number 2 does the same - but if number 2 likes the gift that #1 chose he may trade it - without the other player's consent. The person who chooses #3 goes next, and so on until each person has chosen a gift. The catch is that the person who chose the first gift may not switch his gift for a different one until everyone has chosen and opened their gift.
I know it's complicated - try googling "Yankee swap" and you may read a better description of the rules.
Each year, at our July family gathering, we do this gift swap.
A few years ago, my brother purchased a handmade brick from a historic village he and his family were visiting.
He carried it a great distance to bring it home and to the annual gift swap and it was chosen, wrapped as a gift, by K. K and I were excited with this gift and K did not trade it for a different choice as the game proceeded.
But, at some point, my uncle, who likes to stir things up just a little, traded his gift for this brick, and so it became his.
Feeling disappointed, and being sore losers, K and I hounded him for taking K's brick.
It was the brunt of jokes for a few months and then Christmas rolled around.
Somehow or other, my uncle managed to give the brick to K as a Christmas gift.
There was another round of joking and chastising my uncle - though we thanked him for returning the brick to people who could appreciate its beauty.
A year passed - K and I were unable to attend last year's family party in July and we planned what we would do the following year (this year) for the swap....
While in Wellfleet (AHA, you say, this story FINALLY ties in...) I purchased a retro-looking baseball "crying towel" for use when one's favorite team loses.
I knew, when I bought the towel, that my uncle is a great baseball fan and that it would be a perfect gift for him.
But, in the back of my mind, I was also plotting how to give him back the brick.
I could bake it into a bread...I might put it into the center of a Jello mold...I could simply wrap it as a present.
I had many ideas.
A year passed and the brick grew dusty in my living room (as things do).
One day, the week before the party, I was shopping at a favorite store when I came upon the perfect disguise for the brick.
I found a pillow with the logo of the baseball team my uncle hates the most - the arch rivals of his favorite team.
I bought this pillow, took it home and opened one of the seams.
I stuffed the brick INSIDE the pillow, re-fluffed the stuffing, and sewed it shut again.
It appeared, to the uninitiated, to be untouched.
I wrapped the pillow and the aforementioned "crying towel" and we went to the party.
We had a wonderful time.
We ate a lot and laughed a lot and finally, with the entire family in a fever pitch of anticipation, we started the gift swap. Just as we began, my uncle told us all about the brick - about how K had gotten it and how he had wanted it - and how big it was of him to give it back to K for Christmas.
K chose #1.
My uncle chose #12 - the last number.
No one chose the pillow. Eleven people chose other gifts!
My brother, whose little boy is also a big baseball fan, was one of the last people to choose a gift and he chose the towel.
After a long time of choosing and opening these mystery gifts there was only one left - the pillow.
My uncle chose it and opened it and moaned that it was a terrible gift! The team he hates more than any other! And, he started to wonder, something was strange about the pillow. Was there something INSIDE IT?
We were dying with laughter.
IT FEELS LIKE A...A...BRICK! He was howling with laughter too by then.
IT IS A BRICK, we all screamed.
THAT BRICK? he shouted...
YES, we all yelled.
Suddenly my brother's little boy said he wanted that pillow - it was his favorite team!
And my brother chimed in that he had carried that brick a long long way a few years back.
My uncle pretended to ponder the situation, but he didn't take long to switch the pillow/brick for the crying towel.
My face hurt from smiling so hard.
My plan had worked perfectly.
The towel ended up with my uncle - who had to suffer through receiving the pillow first, my brother got his brick and my nephew got the pillow.
K ended up with ten dollars worth of lottery tickets.
My gift was six blue robin's eggs - too lovely to trade.

We had a wonderful time at that party...and now someone else has a year to think of what to do with that brick.

Youngest and I are comfy and cozy in a beautiful old Wellfleet house.
I'm busy taking photos to show you.


That brick is officially family legend!
Are you wearing a sweater? I heard it's a little chilly up there this morning.
Jennifer said…
So fun! Glad you're having a good time. Thank you for sharing that story.
Anonymous said…
The saga of the brick.
Keep on relax. For me too, please.
barbra said…
We do that swap with our family during the holidays, too. It's remarkable that it worked out the way you had hoped!
Anonymous said…
great story - I'm still laughing!
Have a wonderful vacation.
Mary said…
Aaaahhh - that brought a smile to my face.

You know I can't wait for the Wellfleet photos. Through you I have been following the Potter family and saw the parade photos.
Anonymous said…
A very funny tale, but somehow I don't think it has ended yet. You better watch out at the next swap!
Julie said…
My family has a "brick" too. Except it is one of those lifesized dolls that we call "Chrissy" that is so creepy I cannot even stand to think about it.

Anyway- Chrissy goes back and forth btw my family members in the most creative ways possible. Sometimes she just reappears. Sometimes she goes into someones checked luggage on a trip...

It's all great fun though.

Jess said…
Funny, my in-laws do this with a tape of Elvis' Greatest Hits and a wrapped, beribboned roll of toilet paper.

(I don't ask.)
Allison said…
We used to do a swap like that, but instead of a brick it was a glass potato (the "hot" potato). Ooohh that was so much fun! Thanks for bringing back the memory!
Anonymous said…
Xmas in July. Love it. The brick story--love it too. You are too clever, bb. I have a brick too. From what used to be my great-great- great grandfather's store in a tiny town near Savannah. Sounds sort of romantic, but the procuring of the brick, the ferrying around of the brick and the brick itself were and are more just a pain in the arse.