Two days before Christmas, I woke to the feeling of being trampled by 8 not-so-tiny reindeer. Every hair follicle on my body ached. My stomach cramped, heaved and lurched. I tried to stand up three times, but I was dizzier than Grandma with a double-shot eggnog.
I don’t have time to be sick, I thought. I wasn’t worried about infecting my relatives or yakking in the Jell-O salad. I had to get toast tongs.
I had been steadily shopping for the past three months. My lists were checked, my coupons redeemed. But my Christmas shopping was not complete until I found toast tongs–the one thing that stands between my mother-in-law and certain death. You see, she has a habit of retrieving her toast by jamming a steel fork into the toaster. A lesser daughter-in-law may never mention the invention of toast tongs, leaving Darwinism well enough alone. But I love my mother-in-law and that’s not just the Christmas spirit or sparkling wine talking. She’s actually very cool. Her one fault, however, is her consistent misuse of kitchen utensils. She scrapes Teflon pans with metal spatulas, leaving us to pick the “pepper” out of our scrambled eggs. Her Tupperware is scratched, stained and misshapen, but apparently still good enough to use in the microwave. I’m surprised that my daughter wasn’t born with a radioactive third eye given the high-levels of toxicity we’ve been exposed to while dinning at Mom’s house.
So this Christmas, finding toast tongs became my passion. Before Thanksgiving, this was not a problem. You couldn’t swing a dead cat around a Bed, Bath and Beyond without hitting stainless steel, bamboo or wood versions in a variety of lengths. But like the illusive purple unicorn Pillow Pet that was in abundance for 333 days but suspiciously disappeared at the first sound of a Christmas carol, Black Friday marked the death of all toast tongs.
I hadn’t exhausted all of my resources. Sure, there’s the mall, major home-shopping stores and your kitchen specialty shops, but hard-core shopper such as myself know about back-alley retailers who carry the hard-to-find objects for a little more dough, but it’s the literal price I pay for the perfect Christmas.
Now before you get all high-and-mighty anti-capitalist Christmas on me, let me remind you that the toast tongs will spare my mother-in-law’s life. Pure charity and goodwill disguised as a mere kitchen utensil. It just so happens that she’s really difficult to shop for and the toast tongs are all I have going for me.
So I drag myself out of bed, drive 20 minutes to retrieve my mom (we don’t shop without one another) before we head to our black-market dealer. But when I get to Mom’s house, the nausea is too much to bear. I run past my mom to the sofa, calling out, “Sofa! Heating pad! Sprite! Antacid! Foot massage!” The only thing that makes dying bearable is dying in the loving hands of your mother.
With the image of toast tongs dancing in my head (and a 20-minute foot massage), I rallied. I used the shopping cart to hold me up as we searched our secret-shopping location. Parents shot me disgusted looks, as if I drank too much at last-night’s Christmas party. I carried a plastic bag in my purse, just in case. Waves of nausea crashed over me until I caught sight of my Holy Grail: the most beautiful and petite toast tongs ever made.
My eyes watered. The Halleluiah Chorus rang in my ears. Move over, Tiny Tim. This is a Christmas miracle.
I couldn’t stomach food for another 24 hours, but finding the toast tongs was nourishment enough. When my mother-in-law opened them up on Christmas Eve, she exclaimed, “Oooh! Salad tongs!”
“They aren’t salad tongs.”
The next morning, I heard the familiar sound of a fork being jammed into the toaster.
My husband suggested that my untimely Christmas funk might have been a sign that I should take it easy, sit back and enjoy the holidays without all the frantic shopping. Sure, easy for him to say since the holiday shopping usually falls on the shoulders of mothers, grandmothers, wives, daughters and daughters-in-law (or shall we keep it simple and just say “women?”). But it’s going to take a lot more than the plague to slow me down. This year, I scrambled for my mother-in-law, but I’d do the same for my daughter, and one day, when she’s old enough to wield her daddy’s credit card, she’ll do the same for me. Holiday shopping is not an easy burden to bear and it’s not a responsibility most women lightly. And I’m guessing by the desperate looks of my fellow Eve-of-Christmas-Eve shoppers, I’m not alone.
In hopes that you found all that you were looking for this holiday–retail inspired or otherwise–Merry Christmas!