After having child no 2, I worked part-time doing admin for a lovely charity in the City (of Laaandan). It was a really nice place to work, and I loved it.
One Christmas, we did the usual Secret Santa within my ‘team’. The team was mainly women and the boss man of our little team was, indeed a man. He was a nice man, maybe in his 50’s…
very odd a little bit odd at times, but who isn’t. It was difficult talking to him sometimes, he seemed very quiet and a bit reserved. He was the sort of man I imagined stayed indoors a lot, didn’t own a TV and read old books all day. He looked at me like he thought I was an annoying child.
The budget for Secret Santa was really small, as it was a Charity, understandably. £2 per person. I found a really lovely gift for my SS recipient, as you do. I wrapped it up and wrote a label in bold handwriting so she didn’t know who bought it. On the day of the exchange, everyone looked at the little pile of presents to find the one with their name on it. We all stood in a circle and opened the wrapping simultaneously.
As I peeled the wrapping paper off my gift, I couldn’t really tell what it was. It was something flat and light. As I pulled it completely out of the packaging, I felt confusion wash over me. Inside the festive wrapping paper was….. ……..wait for it……
No really…….. sit down…….. get ready……
A. Gift. Bag.
Like, you know, a GIFT BAG that you buy to put a gift into. Someone had wrapped up a gift bag for me. Was this a joke? If it was, I definitely didn’t understand the joke. I tried to mask the confused look on my face by smiling and looking pleased. I peeked inside the gift bag, in case there was an ACTUAL gift inside. Nope. The bag was still flat and in the cellophane as it was in the shop. Everyone by now was holding up their gifts and telling each other what they’d got, laughing and joking. I stood silently looking at my Gift Bag, smiling still in case the person who bought it was watching me. All of a sudden it dawned on me that Odd Boss Man had clearly bought this for me. Who else in their right mind would buy someone a gift bag as a present?! To be fair, it was a very pretty gift bag. Very girly, with flowers or butterflies or something on it. It had a massive £2 label on the front, and was from M&S, which was the shop just outside the tube station. I pretty quickly worked out that Odd Boss Man had clearly walked into the shop, panicked at what to buy the irritating young female co-worker he probably despised. He probably clapped eyes on the gift bag and thought, brilliant, £2, job done. Maybe he thought it was a hand bag.
One of my lovely colleagues called out across the circle… “Jo, what did you get??” I didn’t know what to say… so I slowly held up the gift bag, smiling, as everyone in the circle turned to look at me. She looked confused too. Thank God. I think she sensed my awkwardness so she changed the subject.
Afterwards we went back to our desks where Odd Boss Man sat opposite me. I couldn’t regale the team with the weirdness of the gift because he was RIGHT THERE looking at me. I popped the gift bag in my top tray and kept trying not to laugh every time I looked at it.
At some point that day he made a comment about me liking my gift. I said it was lovely. It was… Very pretty. He looked pretty smug. I wondered if he really thought it was a hand bag. Seeing his happy face at buying something I liked was sweet. Made me feel bad about it being so weird though, I never would have told him the error of his ways and burst his bubble. But it will always be the best Secret Santa buy ever. I often wonder if he ever bought anyone else a gift bag as a gift, because it went down so well!
I used the gift bag a month or so later, to put a gift in. I felt the bag needed to fulfil its purpose in life.
So anyway, I will always remember the time someone bought me a gift bag.
*It wasn’t this exact gift bag, this is a random pic from eBay. But you get the jist.
**I wonder if this post wins an award for the most uses of the words GIFT BAG???