Holiday music is everywhere. The stores are full of gifts and sweets hoping you will buy them for friends and loved ones and as usual, I’m not out there much. A reluctant shopper at any time, I am even more so when the shops are busy. Just the idea of gift-giving fills me with unease and trepidation — and no wonder! My own home is filled with gifts I don’t need, but keep — from people I love.
What was the most useless gift I ever received?? There are many, however it may have been the Portuguese bread bag which arrived by mail. Not that I recognized it as such when I opened the package. It was an off-white, 9” square, fabric bag with a pull-string at the top, and a bright red embroidered flower in one corner with the word “PAN” inscribed on it.
According to Greek mythology, Pan was that happy-go-lucky god of the woods, fields and fertility — the son of Hermes and a gofer for the other gods. He was a musical prodigy, but his body was totally confused, with horns, hoofs and goat ears, all of which didn’t seem to bother him. He had a grand time playing his pipe of reeds, which the clever guy, they say, invented all by himself. You have to admire Pan for not looking at his reflection in a pond and just giving up — that’s how ugly he was.
His persistence in the face of failure with the fair sex is inspiring. He continued to woo one beautiful wood nymph after another even though they kept rejecting him due to his yucky looks. It wasn’t very kind of them, but maybe they just couldn’t get past the thought of those scratchy hoofs in bed. They say the word “panic” is derived from the fears of travelers who heard the sound of Pan’s pipes at night in the wilderness. But, that wouldn’t scare me half as much as shopping for gifts. My family knows. They are kind. They shop for their own gifts from me and I am grateful.
Well, back to that bag. I studied it. Was it a tribute to the Greek Pan? For carrying a small pipe made of reeds? Do I have reed pipes sitting around hoping for a place to snuggle in — in such a bag? I couldn’t figure it out. I called to inquire. After patiently hearing my long tale about Pan and his hoofs and his lack of success with the ladies, my friend chuckled.
“You lived in L.A. for years and don’t know what pan is?” (It does means bread in Spanish.) I remained puzzled. How could any bread fit into such a bag and why would anyone want to put it in there?
What to do? During past holidays we had fun with what we called a “Stupid Gift Exchange”. We would wrap gifts we’d been given and didn’t need. (If you do this, be sure the gift-giver isn’t at the party.) Friends are sometimes pleased to get something you may not have wanted, but apparently my Portuguese bread bag was not in demand. It was rejected two years in a row and I was required to take it back — twice.
Poor thing. Its red flower turned to an embarrassed scarlet and it sat alone feeling blue, rejected and unloved in my kitchen junk drawer for years. I’d see it now and then and be reminded of its sorrow. It made me sad. After years of this, I finally passed it on as a wedding gift, along with a cheque and a hand-written note revealing the long saga of the poor unwanted Portuguese bread bag.
The young couple who received it must have been moved. They called me long distance just to find out if the sad story was true. Would I make up something like that?
They assured me they knew someone they wanted to give it to. I wonder who it was. Did those people find a use for it and keep it? Did they pass it on again? I wonder who has it now or if it is still being passed from one to another? Did someone happen to give it to you?
Happy Holiday! Here’s to humour, health and happiness in the New Year!