Gather ’round, children, and I will tell you the story of the Christmas potato.
It started as a Thanksgiving potato, really. It showed up about 15 years ago in a batch of raw potatoes — maybe dug from a garden, maybe bought from a store. I really can’t remember.
The important thing was that this potato caught the attention of my cousin’s daughters, who were adolescents at the time. The potato had a little knob attached, which they thought made it look like a turkey with a head. So, being creative types, they dressed it with paper feathers and a wattle and used it to decorate our family’s Thanksgiving table.
We all thought that was pretty funny, because — well, because we’re easily amused, and I don’t even think wine was involved. Someone probably took a picture of it. But we just figured that potato would be hash browns the next day.
We were wrong.
A month later, the family gathered again. In the midst of our annual white elephant exchange — a famously raucous event — my Uncle Ted opened the present he had chosen from a pile in the middle of the room. Inside he found the potato, this time outfitted in a little felt Santa suit, with craft-store googly eyes and a cotton-ball beard.
It had grown a few sprouts in the ensuing month and was looking a little wrinkly, so this time we figured it would probably go to that big recycling bin in the sky.
We were wrong.
The potato resurfaced a few months later for my sister’s 50th birthday, withered and clad in a teeny bikini. (This was not meant as a reflection of either my sister’s appearance or her choice of swimming apparel.) Then the following Christmas it made its way back to the gift exchange, its shriveled form swathed in white and topped with a tinsel halo.
How — or more importantly, why — that potato survived more than a year remains a mystery to me. I’m fairly certain it’s gone now, although I’m still not above giving the sniff test to any presents I choose in the white elephant exchange.
It’s not the first time an item has made repeated appearances in my family’s gift-giving. An enormous brassiere my aunt received when she retired as a department-store foundations saleswoman made several hilarious encores. So did a cousin’s maternity bathing suit, some oversize underwear and a pair of shiny pink pleather pants.
(Warning to my family: I know where the latter resides. You just never know when it might reappear.)
I can’t tell you what I got for any of those Christmases, but I remember those gifts clearly. And the laughs they prompted created memories that are among the most precious gifts I’ve ever received.
I’m pretty sure other families or groups of friends have similar gifts that get passed around repeatedly — a 20-year-old fruitcake, maybe, or a creepy singing Christmas tree.
I’d like to hear about yours. I’ll compile my favorite stories of continually regifted gifts and share them in the Dec. 22 home section.
You can submit your story by email at email@example.com or by mail at this address: Mary Beth Breckenridge, Akron Beacon Journal, P.O. Box 640, Akron, OH 44309-0640.
Be sure to include your name, the town where you live and a phone number where I can reach you during the day, just in case I have questions.
Deadline is Dec. 15.
Just think: Maybe your family’s story will make it into the paper, in an article suitable for framing.
And you can wrap that up and start passing it around.
Mary Beth Breckenridge can be reached at 330-996-3756 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also become a fan on Facebook at http://tinyurl.com/mbbreck, follow her on Twitter @MBBreckenridge and read her blog at www.ohio.com/blogs/mary-beth.