How I Got Myself Into A Holiday Pickle Without Even Trying

How I got myself in a holiday pickle.

Let me start with the relief.

My neighbor still talks to me.

Even since it happened.

That unfortunate incident.

Also known as her holiday party.

She’s a relatively new neighbor.

Who knew she brought with her a legendary holiday tradition?

“Come To My Naughty Santa Party” the invitation read early in the holiday season last year.

A “Ladies Only” party.

We were supposed to wear pajamas and spend $20 on an ornament to gift.

Have you been to these sort of gift exchanges, Dear Reader?

Everyone brings a gift, you draw a number, when your turn comes around you either select an unopened gift or steal one that’s already been opened.

“White Elephant” some call it.

Naughty Santa for my neighbor.

Call me simple.

Call me dense.

To me, there was only one way to interpret “Naughty Santa.”

And our local variety store saved the day.

There, hanging by the register was the answer—

A vibrating pickle ornament.

Does anything say, “Naughty Santa” better than vibrating pickle ornament?

Oh, and did I mention the package promised it yodels, as well?

$16.98 out the door.

“Perfect,” I thought.

My only fear was not being original.

Surely, there would be at least eight different people bringing the same gift.

I needn’t had worried.

Well, not about that.

“Don’t be scared,” my friend, Holly, pulled me aside as the party got started a few nights later.

She had an ominous look.

“This gift exchange can get, uh, competitive.”

“It’s like the Varsity Olympics of gift exchange,” another woman added.

They weren’t kidding.

50 women fired up in flannel jammies and fuzzy slippers, fueled by wine and hors d’oeuvres.

Perhaps they received a different invitation?

As it quickly became apparent, no one had paid attention to the $20 spending limit.

As package after package opened, I started to sweat.

Clearly, I had gotten this very wrong.

One gift was more elaborate than the next.

One woman opened eagle feather sculpted owl ornaments to “oohs and ahhs” from the crowd.

When someone stole that, she opened stained glass balls nicer than what you might buy from Tiffany.

Lots of opening.

Lots of stealing.

Not one naughty.

Because apparently no one interpreted “naughty” like I did.

Not one pickle.

Because for some reason, no one was picking up my package.

Until number 49.

The woman vacillated between stealing and opening one of the last remaining gifts.

She went for mine.

I wanted to crawl under the coffee table.

As she held up the vibrating plastic pickle ornament.

The room went silent.

In disbelief.

And then,

Came the raucous laughter.

A pickle?

Who brings a pickle to such a fancy party?

Apparently, me.

“It yodels does that count?” I asked.

The laughter doubled.

I share my pickle as we round the corner on the holidays when surely I will do it again.

Bring a pickle to the ornament party?

You know, I just might.

If I’m invited again.

There’s that.

I’ll let you know.

Meanwhile, how about you and I vow to embrace the spirit of the pickle this holiday season?


Accept that we’re are going to mess up.

Mistake cues from family and friends.

Let’s just promise to laugh our way through.

And yodel.

Please remember to yodel.

(((Please catch my column each week in The Atlanta Journal Constitution, The Dayton Daily News and other Cox Newspapers across the country.)

And if you enjoy this column on a perfectly messy, imperfect life, you might like my book–

“Hope Possible: A Network News Anchor’s Thoughts On Losing Her Job, Finding Love, A New Career, And My Dog, Always My Dog.”

final front cover



One comment

  • Mark Hammett


    I always loved your news reports on CNN while I traveled the SE and eventually the rest of the USA on business. You were a morning staple. Hotels, airports or back at home, I appreciated the work you did informing us of what was going on. Thank you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

How I Got Myself Into A Holiday Pickle Without Even Trying

by DarynKagan time to read: 2 min
%d bloggers like this: