Sometimes, presents given for Christmas, a birthday or another occasion are chosen carefully.
The giver has thought about the recipient’s interests and needs and has perhaps remembered hints dropped about items the receiver would enjoy having, but wouldn’t splurge on themselves.
And other times, none of those factors have been considered.
This is a story about the second type of gift.
It was from my brother, Landan — my stepbrother, if I’m being accurate, but I usually drop the prefix, because our families have blended well and I consider it an unimportant technicality.
This was during our Christmas 2013 gift exchange, when I was 20 and he was 18.
The present was wrapped in about seven layers of paper, including all the leftover bits from everything else he had wrapped, and a lot more tape than strictly necessary.
My hopes hadn’t been raised for anything spectacular, but the overzealous wrapping created suspense nevertheless.
When I got to the center of the paper and tape conglomerate, I was baffled.
Nestled inside was a Dora the Explorer Pillow Pet.
I couldn’t help but laugh — nonstop for what seemed like, and may have actually been, several minutes — at what a bizarre finding that was.
It was confusing for a few reasons, the main one being that “Dora the Explorer” was well out of the realm of shows I watched as a junior in college. In fact, I didn’t think I’d been a dedicated Dora viewer even when I was much younger.
There was also the matter of Dora being a human character, which made her inclusion as one of the Pillow Pets a little strange.
Pillow Pets, for folks who don’t have small children, are essentially stuffed animals that in one form lie flat like a small pillow, and in another make an attempt to stand up on legs Velcroed together. As the name suggests, many are animals, though the Pillow Pets website shows options including a police car and the tomato from Veggie Tales.
The animal options might be cute, but a human character just looks disturbing with its flat body and relatively massive, round head. When flat, with her limbs outstretched, Dora almost looks like she’s attempting to fly; the scrunched up version is like she’s crawling but hasn’t figured out the most efficient form for doing so.
“It just spoke to me and said ‘Kathryne,’” my brother explained.
I still don’t know why the gift seemed like a good idea, but I’m glad he gave it.
I don’t remember what I got him that year. I don’t remember what else I received that year.
I remember how hard we all laughed. I remember us telling other people and trying to explain how funny the whole thing had been. I remember the incident when I see other Dora the Explorer items and consider whether they’d be a good return gag gift.
It’s a lesson in what should be important at the holidays: the loved ones you’re with and the memories you make, not the gifts you give or receive.