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Smell the Coffee: Gifts you won't soon forget

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Some gifts are simply impossible to top.But that hasn't stopped me from trying.When I was growing up, I was one of those kids who loved the macabre. I adored "Chiller Theater" and scary comic books and Stephen King novels.And I also loved turtles.My brother and I had several box turtles as pets, as well as a few red-eared sliders. So, along with my scary stories, when I was in grade school and middle, I collected anything and everything turtle-related.And so it came to be that my mom was out walking in the woods one day with their dogs, way back then, when she came across a dead turtle. Except the turtle wasn't merely dead, it was skeletal. Its bones bleached white from the sun.Mom continued her walk, but kept thinking about those bones all the way home. It wasn't until a few hours later, when the subject of Christmas shopping came up, that a use for those bones occurred to her.And it was one of those ideas that she said made it hard for her to stop giggling.The next day, Mom returned to the woods and gathered all the tiny turtle bones and shell parts into a box, which she carried home and hid until Christmas. Prior to gift-wrapping the box for her turtle-loving daughter, she wrote a few words on top and a few more inside.On top: "Build Your Own Turtle Kit."Inside: "Just add meat."Over the years, Mom's gift has become something of a legend in our family. Although she cringes when I tell the story in public, it's the perfect indicator of not only my mother's delightfully weird sense of humor, but also something of an explanation for why I turned out so quirky.
Skip ahead many years until last year, when my own daughter, who was then 15, said the only thing she wanted for Christmas was a raccoon.Not a stuffed or toy raccoon, mind you, but an honest-to-Pete real raccoon.
Considering the story I just shared, it's not hard to guess where we're headed.I already owned a little black Halloween mask. All I needed were bones.Though I'm not a stickler for authenticity, I hopped onto eBay, curious as to whether someone might be selling raccoon bones.There were three.It's a strange country we live in that there's a competitive market for varmint remains. Even stranger that I got outbid all three times.I settled for the carcass of a Sam's Club rotisserie chicken and the presumption that my girl wouldn't look all that close. A gamble well-played.
When my girl tore off the wrapping paper and read the box and then peeked cautiously inside, she laughed every bit as hard as I did all those years ago.I suspect a family tradition is being established.Especially considering this year's long shopping list and tight budget and need for creative thinking. Adding to that, my nephew Zak also turns 21 on Christmas Day.When I asked my niece if she had any ideas what to get her brother for Christmas and his birthday, she said there's only one thing he wants.A girlfriend.Reach Karin Fuller via email at
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