Forty gifts, forty chances. And since the instructions for the White Elephant game at the Christmas party held by my son's karate dojo said all gifts should range from $15-$25, my son was guaranteed a nice gift.
The number he picked? #3. My son was excited--he had all those presents to choose from. And he chose a big one. Problem is, my son really didn't have use for a s'more making machine.
But he tried to sell it, boy did he try! As boy after boy, parent after parent each come up to either pick a prize or exchange with one previously picked, my son held aloft his not-so-coveted s'more making machine. It didn't help he stood right by the unpicked gifts so he had to watch as gift after gift was chosen, and his remained attached to him.
But then, the thirty-ninth pick, an adult looked past the gingerbread house/yo-yo combos (that was the one we bought...), the emoji poo banks, the Blu-Ray copies of Scrooged, the lava lamp, the remote control sumo wrestlers, and all the other White Elephant gifts and turned to my son. All that hoisting of the s'more making machine in the air finally paid off and a smile returned to his face.
Now, he had a shot at redemption, a chance to once again claim a prize better suited to a child and not someone who wants to make tasty treats from a trio of sugary goodness whenever they want (with adult supervision, of course...).
He walked among the tables and chairs. Movies and poo emojis were thrust into the air hoping to gain his attention so those kids could get another chance, just like the chance my son had now. This particular game had a "3 Strikes" rule, meaning once a gift had been claimed three times, it withdrew from active trading. My son kept note--he knew which gifts were out of the game and which ones weren't. His problem was, he didn't want any of the "still active" gifts.
So, he took another chance. He picked one of the remaining two gifts on the table. After all, each gift was worth between $15-$25.
He made his choice.
He opened the gift.
He could barely believe what he saw. Neither could we.
Someone took a used Nerf® gun, one well-used with black magic marker all over it, wrapped it, and added it to the cache. My son chose it.
The last person, Number 40, took their turn and thus ended the game. My son brought his gift and showed it to his mom. My son wasn't sad, or mad, but more disappointed. We explained as we drove home in the rain that a White Elephant game is just that, a game. It's a risk. Some kids got remote controlled cars, some got poo emoji banks, and some got a toy gun.
My son (and the parents who bought his gift for the party...) went out to face the world again, wiser.