It’s been a crazy couple of months. Losing a best friend. Gaining a new one. Barreling through the winners tape at the end of a month long challenge. Stumbling, tripping and almost not making it through another. And not blogging.
That’s not to say people have been looking for my blog posts. I don’t think they are. But writing them helps me to work through the muck that I get drug down into from time to time. It’s just kind of what I do. But I’ve lost that. So today I’m coming back to my roots. Putting on the mask of the Storyteller, and just telling a personal story.
Garden Gnomes and the Holidays
Around my family, we come along with themes to our gift giving. If you read my last blog over at WLP, you’ll remember that for me the gift isn’t so much about the gift, but what it says about your knowledge and feelings towards the person you’re giving it to. Sometimes it is just a running gag that rolls out of control, like Jimmy Kimmel’s Christmas prank war with John Krasinski.
As an example, my father’s “spirit animal” is a duck. This happened through a series of misadventures involving a Chinatown butcher shop while on a convention trip (shopping for their hospitality room), and an email while working for the county involving a duck nest (and I’m not even joking a little there). Of course this means that he will be given duck related gifts. And has been. For going on more years than I can remember. Last year included a full basket of duck related goodies including an Uncle Si Funko Pop from Duck Dynasty.
With my sister and brother-in-law we change things up every decade or so. A few years back we started a new theme on a whim. I’d picked up the book How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack from the bookstore as a gift. To go along with this, we picked up three garden gnomes; one Travelocity Gnome (the non-speaking one) and two gnomes dressed in Wisconsin Badger jerseys. The idea being that we would give them the book and then hide the three gnomes around the house.
Fast forward to the confused looks at the book before paging through it and laughing. Luckily we were celebrating the holidays at their house (which might be why future years have been at our parents place). The Travelocity Gnome was sitting in the snow just outside the sliding door leading to the deck, looking in at the kitchen. My wife went outside and trudged through the snow to set it up there without opening the door. One of the Badger gnomes was sitting in the cupboard with the coffee mugs, and the other was hidden under the covers in their bed.
During the course of the night my wife asks my sister for a cup of coffee. She readily agrees, starts up the machine and opens the cupboard where the mugs are… and promptly reaches behind the gnome to grab a mug. Nothing. Zero recognition. Robin and I are dumbfounded. So I state that a cup of coffee actually sounds awesome, could I get one too? My sister agrees and asks my brother-in-law to grab her another mug. He goes to the cupboard… and does the exact same thing. When we had them open the door and stare at it, they finally both had it appear like the sailing ship in that painting from the movie Mallrats.
Even after that they don’t notice the bright red hat and deep blue coat sticking out of the snow on the deck. He’s just staring in like he should be narrating some commercial or something. “I’d like a nice spot of tea to warm up my toes.” One of their cats comes up from the basement room, sees the gnome and freaks. Starts hissing and howling at the door. My sister comes over and is consoling her, asking her what’s wrong. Totally missing the gnome the cat is staring straight at. I kid you not.
So the next morning, we expected a call. Someone calling to call me an asshole for hiding a gnome in their bed, something. But no call comes. We let it go for a bit. They don’t have kids, maybe they were sleeping in. Finally we call them. Eventually we lead the conversation around to how they slept. Nothing. No mention of the gnome. When she went back to look for it, the thing was somewhere on the nightstand. I may have questioned how much they drank at Christmas.
Thus the Era of the Gnome begun.
Last year, my brother-in-law was so pleased with himself. He wanted to get back at us for our summer prank on them. While feeding their cats while they were camping one week, Robin and I printed out over 45 pictures of gnomes. We even meme’d up a couple. One laying back in a Burt Reynold’s like fashion was saying “Once you go gnome you never go home.” We taped up and hid them all through the house. I even taped one up near the light fixture in their walk-in closet, telling Robin the horror writer’s adage. People never look up. For the record, it took a while for them to find that one. I had then posted to Facebook. “42 is the magic number.” I figured if they made it to 42 and then stopped, when the next one showed up they’d be really confused.
In relation, he purchase the Travelocity Gnome that has the motion sensing voicebox to it. Basically the talking model of the one that started this whole thing. When we opened it up he was practically dancing with joy. Until I deadpanned to him, “You’re forgetting something.” He looked confused until I reminded him his birthday was the first week of January. So the next salvo was mine.
Since then my sister was given a “perv” gnome for her birthday. He’s opening a trench coat and there’s a bit of an issue with his boxers. Yeah, sick and twisted, but the game has been upped. One must escalate in these things. You can’t simply step down, or phone it in. And yes, I have at least two more rebuttals prepped and ready to go. In the event he ups the game again this Christmas, we won’t even have to wait for shipping before his birthday.
Now another fair question is to ask what happens to all of these ducks and gnomes. Does each house have a place of honor for them? Nope.
Granted our Travelocity Gnome is out by our fireplace along with a concrete traditional gnome (that we may have originally bought for them), a pair of biker gnomes (because… reasons), a plastic zombie gnome because it was cheap and at the costume shop, and a kaiju gnome. I really shouldn’t have to explain that one. My garden zombie had to go back in the library because the puppy kept growling at it. Maybe she will grow to accept it by the fireplace. We shall see.
My sister and brother-in-law have sequestered all of the gnomes (including the solar light globe set we installed in their front yard that first summer of the battle) in their at-home office. My father has a small shrine ala Dia de Muertos on his “desk” in his office. And by office, I mean my old bedroom. And by desk, I mean folding table.
Many people have family they chose as opposed to those they are born with. Some have both. If you are in mine it is usually easy to tell. Smartassed comments and odd pranks/gifts are usually there. Kind of like that first writer’s conference when I brought Mark Henry some Amanda Feral themed cupcakes. Anatomically correct zombie cooch cupcakes. Amanda’s had the toasted coconut decoration, while the Wendy ones had the untoasted coconut decoration but had a mini Twix bar baked inside them. (If you haven’t read the series before, this was genius. Trust me.) 😉
So be it odd cupcakes, chocolate bars with ghost chiles in it, or garden gnomes. Just know it comes from a place of love. And for gods’ sake, return fire!