Last Saturday was the annual Partners in Christ Christmas Clambake (or Shindig, which, by the way, sounds awfully painful). This year we joined forces with the Bereans class, in an attempt to gleen some of their wisdom of how best to “par-tay”, which they have accumulated over their abundant years. The event was hosted at the lovely home of Steve and Debbie Baldaramos, high atop Mt. Taylor overlooking beautiful Bennett Valley. The usual church Christmas party rituals were enjoyed: chit-chat, finger foods, an assortment of soft drinks, a dachshund wearing a Santa hat.
One of the main attractions this year, was the White Elephant Gift Exchange. This was a highly anticipated event, mostly due to a few choice items that made their debut last year and were expected to rear their ugly (depending on the taste of the individual I suppose) heads again this yuletide. The three items in question: an oversized diaper and safety pin with the ubiquitous phrase “Over the Hill” printed on it, a ceramic grizzly bear (I only assume it is a grizzly. Could be a Kodiak), and, the Pièce de résistance, The Warrior (more on that later).
We had a special treat this year as well. A Super Fantastic Magical Extravaganza by our own John Dahlinger (John, if I spelled your name wrong I apologize. I’ve only known you a few months). Not only did he use me and Jeff to further his sorcerers ways, he didn’t even give us fancy sequined outfits to wear while we assisted him…which was fine by me, but Jeff was really upset about it. Oh yeah, he also did some pretty cool magic. Even better than his tricks however, were Robin Riley’s reaction to them. I really wish I had brought my video camera. A good time was had by all.
Now on to the important stuff. What is this Warrior that you speak of? Ah, the history of The Warrior is a fabled one, indeed. While it’s known history stretches back perhaps 10 years, the ethos of The Warrior are as old as the earth itself: comraderie, fellowship, respect, The Warrior is all of these things. It was at a gathering not dissimilar to the one I have just described where The Warrior made it’s first appearence. My number had been called and I was to choose the next treasure from under the tree in that years yankee swap. Little did I know the future impact of my choice. As I unwrapped the gift, brought by my own kin, Uncky Jeff, I thought my eyes were deceived. There in my lap I held, quite possibly, the most hideously ugly sweater I had ever seen. It was black, with neon green trim around the cuffs and collar. It would barely fit an eight year-old. And in the center, woven our of a rainbow of neon thread, was the cross stitched representaion of legendary WWF wrestler The Ultimate Warrior. I was in love. It was magnificent and so very small. Surprisingly, no one stole it from me that night and I was able to take to home to cherish. I even wore it to school (I have a picture of me wearing it somewhere). As time passed, I realized that it was selfish of me to keep The Warrior all to myself. Others must experience the joy that comes with ownership. After a year and a half or so, I mustered the courage to let go. I lovingly wrapped up my friend The Warrior and presented it to my other friend Mike Tonks for his high school graduation. It was a difficult moment…until I saw the joy on Mikes face. That made it all worthwhile.
After that, much like Tolkiens Ring of Power, the sweater was lost. Maybe it understood that we just weren’t ready for it yet. Or maybe it knew it’s greatest work was yet to come. Or maybe Mike just misplaced it. Whatever the reason, The Warrior knew. Last year, nearly nine years since we had last seen it, with the possible exception of Mike, The Warrior made it’s dramatic return. I can’t even remember the exact situation. I was overcome with so much emotion, so much bliss and anquish all at once…bliss because I had seen it again, anguish because I knew it could not be mine. At the end of the evening Josh Carrillo took it home and it could not have gone to a more worthy or appropriate recipient.
So, at this years party, the air was thick with anticipation. Who would get The Warrior? Who would be so honored? These were the questions heard as we gathered in front of the tree. To a lesser extent, “I wonder who will get stuck with the diaper?” was also a theme of inquiry. (As a side note, somehow last year Jen and I ended up with both the diaper and the bear. I’m not sure how this happened. We also got the infamous walking ear which hence will never be spoken of again.) As the first number was called, a heavy blanket of expectation was flung over the room. Who has number one? Ah, nobody. It’s still in the cup. The tension mounted. Ok, number two, who has number two? It was Jeremy Writebol. He chose a gift with a “nice gift bag” as per the instructions of his wife. Ah, the Anne Taylor Loft, very nice indeed…but not quite what Stephanie had in mind. But if she had known what Anne Taylor was hiding she surely would have insisted upon it’s choosing. Jeremy parted the tissue paper and revealed the contents…The Warrior!! On the first gift! The room erupted in cheers and applause. The Bereans, Jeremy and other newcomers, were not sure quite what to make of the ruckus. They had not yet learned of the legendary garment. But they would learn quickly. As is the tradition, the first recipient of the article must wear it. Unless of course that recipient is a female. Keep in mind this is a small childs sweater and this is a church function. Three numbers later and it’s my turn. The Warrior will once again be mine! I take the sweater from Jeremy and hold it close to my face. Though in my mind I am already choosing the place of prmoinence to display it, as is required according to the newly minted certificate of authenticity, I know that it is unlikely that I will leave Mt. Taylor with it in hand. There are too many greedy eyes in this place. I can see Jeremy out of the corner of my eye conspiring with his wife for her to steal it from me. Alas, such a plot is not necesary. Somone steals his replacement gift and instead of choosing some worthless mystery package from under the tree, like a used ice cream maker, he takes back my beloved Warrior. It stings, but it’s for the best. Better a new posseser experience the wonders of it first-hand. Besides, there’s always next year.
The 4 owners of The Warrior