I reach my hand into the gift bag with a level of excitement not felt since Santa and God answered my Christmas-time prayers with a Cabbage Patch doll.
Long before my fingers touch the sculpted plastic skirt, I just instinctively know it will be a most unnatural shade of yellow. Oh my niece has outdone herself this year.
Yes! This is THE one.
I fondle the eighteen inch molded figurine like an actress does her first Oscar. Running my thumb over her synthetic hair and admiring the carefully applied blue eyeshadow, I am teary eyed with gratitude.
Her arms are locked in what appears to be the "open for hugs" position and my heart skips a beat. This is no ordinary angel. My day-glow doll has a purpose.
"Auntie, now pull the toilet paper. Pull it!" She giggles.
My wildest imagination could not have envisioned a more perfect gift. I lean closer to my husband, who is watching the toilet paper unravel with envy.
"Top this one, pally."
I look up at my niece with sincerity, clinging to my toilet paper wielding angel. "This is the Best. Gift. Ever. I have just the place for it."
"Your niece gave that to you. You wouldn't dare." TK whispers in my ear, envy seeping into every word.
"It's my gift."
"But your niece gave it to you. You shouldn't re-gift it. That's just wrong."
"Look, clearly this is a set up. She gave it to me knowing it's final home would not be with me."
"In that case I don't think it qualifies."
"Qualifies? Oh there are rules now?"
"The whole point of the after Christmas swap is to bring your worst gift. It's not the same if it's a gift given with the intent of re-gifting."
"Bring your worst gift swap. Not bring-your-worst-gift-that-the-giver-thought-was-awesome swap. And hey, it's my party." I nudge him. "What about when we bought the Nascar coffee mugs because all our real gifts rocked that Christmas? Or the year I gave you the leopard print thong and you swapped it?"
"That was different. Besides, I think you actually wanted me to wear the thong."
"Those gifts were different. This is just... well, it's just different. In a bad way. You need to keep that angel. It's only fair."
I stood, careful not to unravel the toilet paper as I lovingly placed my gift on the mantle.
I leaned in close, my cheek brushing the waving cascades of yellow hair as I smiled and whispered to my Christmas Angel.
"Don't you listen to him, angel baby. He's just upset about the leopard thong."