All I Want for Christmas is a Brick
Jayna Rohslau, ‘22
Ah, December. It’s that special time of year again: when Mariah Carey’s voice is permanently etched into one’s mind and soul, when Trader Joe’s puts out its display of advent calendars, and when hardware stores put out their Christmas trees. It’s a time to be holly, jolly, and more importantly, learn the necessity of happiness and friendship. And so it goes at BHSEC as many make each other happy in the greatest of ways: by giving random people presents, of course. What else might you expect?
Secret Santa is a long-held tradition dating back from 1979, purportedly starting when a man named Larry Stewart gave out hundred dollar bills to needy people. Since then, we have come a long way and nowadays we don’t give money to poor people anymore. Instead, we spend our money on things! Chapsticks, chocolates and bath bombs all serve to drain our wallets and make for wonderful presents. Whether we know a person very well or are only doing Secret Santa with them because of literature class (“I don’t even like them,” grumbled one wannabe Grinch), finding the right gift can be a lot of fun. And it’s so easy to drop just a little cash on just a little something to make someone’s day. So easy-I mean, practically every CVS carries Burt’s Bees. Chapstick is not a scarce resource by any means.
Which is what makes the gifts outside the box so special. At the beginning of one Secret Santa exchange in a 9th-grade advisory, participants shared what they might like to have. Some students said they wanted (very bluntly) candy and another (very helpfully) that she didn’t have any idea at all. However, such indifference wasn’t the case everywhere.
“I just want someone to put effort in,” said young Miles Danielski, clearly deep in thought. “I guess it would show that someone cares.” And while this all seemed rather sad at the time, the overall sentiment of what he said was not lost on his fellow students. After all, there is so little thought put into buying a chapstick, something that will be gone in the blink of an eye (though maybe that’s just because I have very chapped lips). It would be nice, I came around to thinking, if someone spent a little time working to make a Secret Santa present, making it memorable and catering to their person’s individuality.
Like a glittery wooden brick.
To clarify, let me explain the context of the situation: I was in the sixth grade at William Alexander middle school (perhaps better known as MS 51), and Ms. Fournier’s class was doing a Secret Snowflake exchange of our very own. This was all very exciting, especially for me, who was curious as to what I might receive. As a matter of fact, I don’t remember what I gave. I do remember what I got: some chocolate from Whole Foods, long ago devoured and for the most part forgotten. And a wooden brick. This brick was not just any ordinary wooden brick; it was special. Covered in gold and silver glitter, with a J formed of rubber bands nailed into it, it had evidently been the product of a fair amount of effort. I admired it at the time, while also wondering what the heck I was supposed to do with it. I was surrounded by kids who were getting things like chapstick. Everyone knows what to do with chapstick; wooden bricks are another matter entirely. Generally speaking, of course.
Generally speaking. Because long after all those chapsticks have perished and gone to waste, the Christmas brick (as it has been titled) has stuck around in my house. Every year in December, it comes out of hiding and is placed in a position of honor beside a large plastic snowflake. There it stands, making for a very stately decoration, and watches the lives of my family unfold(like our personalized “Elf on a Shelf, one might say. The chocolates from Secret Santa all those years back have been eaten and I’ve even forgotten about the people behind those chocolates. But the Christmas brick remains a staple of my family’s household, and so it seems poised to remain for a while longer.
So what? It might be tempting to say, and to give me a long glance at ‘veering off topic’, as you might call it. But in fact, the Christmas brick is as relevant to the situation as any other Secret Santa gift. Because while it might have seemed strange at first, it has, in fact, served the useful purpose of sprucing up the house come the holidays. It is certainly memorable. And more than that, a certain someone spent a decent amount of time making it with me in mind. Quite flattering, to say the least. Which brings me to my obvious conclusion: you shouldn’t bother spending money on a gift for Secret Santa when you can make something yourself.
After all, would you rather have something that lasts a few months (chapstick) or a something that lasts forever (a glittery wooden brick)?