A Tale of Glass Angels

So I’m going to tell you all about the Christmas Angel. Partly because I said I would and partly because it serves as a rather nice object lesson about the fine balance between Treasure, and Good Form. But before I get to the Christmas Angel, I’m going to explain what I mean by those two things.

The idea that Treasure is important to pirates is fairly self-explanatory, but I’m going to explain it anyway.

I like nice things. High quality thing, the “good stuff.” I like whipped cream on my coffees, and maraschino cherries in my mocktails at Christmas work events. And if there isn’t supposed to be one, I ask for it. Because I deserve no less, and so does anyone else with the moxie to ask for a cherry.

Now, I’m very much into the frugality philosophy, but contrary to what you might, think that doesn’t mean I own mostly crappy, cheap stuff. Quite the opposite. It means that as much as possible, I try to find things for free, or discounted. So if I’m going to pay full price for something, I had better really, really like it.

Which means that if I can get something nice for free (or close to free), that makes me really, really happy.

So you better believe I entered my ladies Bible Study Gift exchange with the full intention of coming away with the best present, as far as it was up to me.

But of course, because I have a code, Good Form also comes into the equation. “Good Form” is a phrase used by both the original Captain Hook as written by J.M. Barrie, and by Killian “Hook” Jones from ABC’s Once Upon a Time. For our purposes it means the standard of good behavior all honorable pirates abide by.

In this case, it means the difference between a fair seizing of opportunity, and exploiting other people.

Now that we have that out of way, I’ll get to the gift exchange.

Some of you may be familiar with this game, but I’ll refresh your memory anyway. If you already know what the game is about (or just don’t care) skip the next three four or so paragraphs.

The idea is that everyone brings a wrapped gift, usually of a certain pre-set relatively low value.

These are put under the tree. Then everyone gets a random number that determines the order in which they get to pick a present. In order, everyone gets their turn to take a present and then they unwrap it.

However, if someone likes a present that someone else has already taken and unwrapped, they may steal the present and the newly presentless person can then pick a wrapped present from under the tree, or steal from someone else. The number of times a present can be stolen is limited (in our case to three), or else the game could go on forever. The game ends when the last present is unwrapped.

Assuming your goal is to get the best present, you want a fairly high number so that you have a good range of options to pick from. Obviously you’re going to steal something, both because that gives you more control over what you get, and because it is the piratey thing to do. And it creates drama and entertainment for other people.

But you don’t want your number to be so high that by the time it’s your turn, the best presents have already been stolen their allotted number of times and are with their permanent owners. I was quite lucky, I got 9 out of 14.

Like all games of chance (including life, as it happens), if you win you can really only credit yourself with not messing up the chance you were given. But you still have the responsibility to not mess it up.

Okay, now we get to the Christmas Angel.

Most of these gift exchange presents are pretty ordinary. Face mask thingees, candles, mugs. Compared to those the Christmas Angel was a gold dubloon in a sea of shillings.

It’s a glass globe with frosted snowflakes on the outside, with a glass angel on the inside. If that weren’t enough, it lights up, giving a pretty image of snowflakishness on the walls that slowly changes color.

So of course it had to be mine. I watched, I waited. My turn was coming.

It was stolen, once, twice. The next person who stole it would keep it forever.

The gift of a lady I respect got stolen. She’d been having exceptionally bad luck with having her gifts stolen. She loved the angel, everyone did, she could steal it and keep it forever. It was my turn next, I was ready to pounce if she didn’t. The angel would be mine or hers.

She wanted to steal the Angel, but just had to know what was in one of the unwrapped presents, so she picked one of those. Not giving in to the allure of the unknown is the key to this game. (That, and being lucky. It’s mostly being lucky.)

Unless of course you just want to open presents, which is fine too. If that’s what you want.

So I stole the Angel (from the wife of my pastor, of all things). It was mine. I had won.

But that wasn’t the end of the story. This lady whose choice gave me the angel had her gift stolen again (I don’t even remember what it was.) The next gift she picked up was the gift I had brought.

I had decided to donate one of the knick-knacks I had collected over the years, a ceramic cat brought back from either Japan or Thailand. It was a pretty thing, so I didn’t really feel like I’d cheated even though it was just something I was going to give to a thrift store eventually.

The problem is, when I was coming into the house where we were having our Christmas party, I dropped the gift when I was reaching down to take my boots off. I thought maybe I heard a crack tinkle noise.

And yes, the cat was broken.

Now I know I didn’t mean to bring something crummy, which really would have been Bad Form. But still, I ended up with the Christmas Angel, and she got the broken thing I brought. I could see she was disappointed. And I didn’t say anything about the fact that I brought it, because I felt bad.

I wanted to win, of course, but not like that.

You might also be wondering why I keep referring to her as the lady I respect. It’s not that I didn’t respect the other ladies present (although I might not respect some of them, but that’s beside the point). It’s more that giving someone my respect is a big deal for me.

I can have compassion on someone I don’t respect, but I find it very hard to trust or feel genuine connection with such people. So the fact that this happened to a lady I do respect made it that much more troubling.

In the end she didn’t end up with the broken cat. Someone else ended up stealing it because she wanted to try doing that thing where you put together a broken ceramic with gold stuff and it looks even prettier than it was before. The lady I respect ended up with (if memory serves) an herbal face cleanser.

Part of me wanted to give her the glass angel. Or at least negotiate a shared custody arrangement.

But I didn’t.

Because it was a game, and to misquote Killian “Hook” Jones, “the point is, you win.”

And that’s the story of the glass angel that will forever make me feel a little bit smug and a little bit guilty every time I look at it.


Oh and before you go, I should mention I’ve just updated my blog’s WordPress theme to the very snazzy and pirate appropriate Tortuga. Let me know what you think, eh?