Our family likes to give themed gifts. Let's face it, there's four kids and two parents, and sometimes you just haven't got a good, thoughtful gift idea for every single one of them. God knows it's much more of a nightmare for Mom and Dad, who occasionally struggle with remembering our names: "Get over here, Mol- er - Kel - er - you with the face!" You need something reliable to fall back on - not spectacular, but completely acceptable.
When we were younger, this meant stuffed animals. In essence, each kid was assigned an animal totem, like we were miniature Native American shamans. Megan had penguins, Kelly got Minnie Mouse, and Molly got Pluto. Every year, on your birthday or on Christmas, you could count on getting slippers, a stuffed animal, or a bedspread inscribed with your mystical animal totem. I had a few years of getting hedgehog-themed gifts, but it didn't last quite as long, possibly because it's much easier to find something with an SF Giants logo on it than it is to find a hedgehog. We eventually got a little too old for stuffed animals, but the animal theme could theoretically go on forever. My gradnmother has roughly 527 different varieties of cow-themed salt shakers, pot-holders, pots, t-shirts, stuffed animals, milk pitchers, piggy banks, and planters. Grandma even has an extensive collection of other stuffed animals dressed up as cows.
It's not limited to animal stuff, however. Any activity of interest can become the basis to an entire holiday's worth of gifts. One year, Mom and Dad decided I was a bicycling enthusiast, although I'm pretty sure I didn't even own a bike at the time. I opened my gifts - bike shirt, bike shorts, water bottle, bike helmet. I was surprised, both by the completeness of the birthday theme and because I couldn't remember the last time I'd been on a bike ride. The highlight came when Dad took me out to the garage to test out some of the new stuff. "Two things to remember," he said. "First, don't use a kickstand. It's just not cool to put down the kickstand. Second is, don't wear underwear when you put on the bike shorts." He paused as horrified revelation set in for me. "You know, because of the chafing."
As a Keane, you eventually develop a resistance to expressing serious interest in anything, because you know family members are always desperately searching for a new theme for you. Actually liking something is OK, as long as you're prepared to get gifts relating to that interest for the next 5-7 years. We have to resort to misdirection and subterfuge, disguising casual interests and keeping our eyes on the prize.
"Where have you been, Kelly?"
"I went on this great tour of the Mint last week, Mom and Dad. It was all about the new hundred-dollar bill. I could not get enough of those hundreds."
"How was your weekend, Sean?"
"Just hung out at the car show. Again. Took a few test drives, you know, the usual. Oh, and my friend forgave thousands of dollars in debt that I owed to him. I've really been into that whole debt relief thing recently. You know, Bono, Live 8, Spring 2005 tuition, that kind of scene."
Note: In repeated experiments, saying, "I really love drinking and smoking weed" will not affect your Christmas gifts, just your place in the will.