* Socks! And they were exactly what I wanted. Because I bought them myself and gave them to my mom and said, "Here. These are what you're giving me for Christmas." What could be easier?
* A new frying pan! Now I can make egg-white omelets without ingesting huge quantities of scraped-off Teflon.
* A new cake pan! Now I can make treats that don't taste like the 50-year-old pan they were baked in.
* A spiffy new set of kitchen knives with one of those cool metal sticks to sharpen them! And the whole thing's in a handsome wooden block that looks smart in any kitchen. (I had forgotten that I'd off-handedly asked for this about four months ago. So it was a nice little surprise. Especially given the sorry-ass state my old knives are in. They're so bad that if I baked one into a cake and smuggled it to Martha, she'd be laughed out of the prison kitchen.)
* Gift certifactes at Old Navy and Gap!
* A fluffy new mattress pad! Mom helped me strip my bed and rotate my mattress when she was in Chicago a month ago, and apparently my threadbare old mattress pad horrified her straight to the bedding sale at Penney's.
* $5 worth of scratch-off lottery tickets! Total haul in lottery winnings: $1. There's a reason my old broker calls lotteries the idiot tax.
* And the most precious presents of all: some magnetic chip clips and a set of measuring cups and spoons. They were hand-picked especially for me at the dollar store by my uncommonly photogenic nephew and niece. My sister -- who engineered this brilliant shopping-for-the-family-in-the-cutest-way-possible plan -- even let them wrap their purchases. The whole thing was so adorable I almost peed.
But the most notable gift of the holiday is my mom's new kitten! Little Lena (if you're Norwegian, you can probably guess my mom's name) has been with us all of two nights, and already everyone in the house is poked full of little kitten holes. Lena cost $175 at the animal shelter, and she woke up her first morning in the house with a bad case of feline conjunctivitis, which -- despite the one-eyed-drunken-kitty cuteness it provided -- necessitated a $75 visit to the vet, who reported that at 2.2 lbs Lena was a little small to be freshly adopted so he placed her on some expensive kitten-growth diet. Factor in that new expense and already our precious little bundle of holiday joy is costing us well over $100 a pound. We may rename her Beluga.
But Lena has quickly developed a friendly little personality and a devoted following among household humans ... and a penchant for scaling our bodies from floor to shoulders in mere seconds. She's also discovered that human faces offer the perfect all-purpose resource for everything from claw-sharpening to ass-wiping. Nonetheless, Mom loves her. But Dad (who officially hates cats) loves her even more, shamelessly buying tuna for her and making room in his lap whenever she tumbles in her hyperkitten little way toward him. And the rich, fatty Norwegian holiday diet I've been shocking my delicate system with has helped me take full advantage of the primary benefit of keeping animals in the house: someone to blame farts on.