Just when I was about to pass a note to my mom, demanding that if she had another of her gifts stolen, she was morally obligated to go and open mine, a cheery human resources manager (who was new that year, and brought an embarrassing basket of potpourri) grabbed my gift exclaiming, to my delight, "I like mine big and messy!" I could feel the tension in the room. "Who brought this one?" Kathy asked suspiciously, which, to my knowledge has never happened in the history of her parties. You at least wait until you see what's inside before you pin the perp. I closed my eyes and raised my hand. I could hear Amy laughing with her dad in the kitchen.
When the red chili pepper wreath was unveiled, a hush went across the room and everyone turned to Kathy to gauge her reaction. Kathy, of course, the arbiter of home decorating with crafts, was too busy staring at the wreath in disbelief to notice the attention. "It's wonderful!" she blurted and her pure reaction garnered a round of applause for me. When the hubbub subsided, she just had to ask, "Did you get it in Santa Fe?"
I was tempted to say yes and embark on a tale involving a cattle ranch, a monk and a little bloodshed, but I refrained. I needed to sit tight with my victory. But then in the final moment, when Kathy's turn came, she pulled the ultimate coup. She got up from her chair, strutted across the floor and grabbed the wreath, instantly absolving me of my awful hygiene, inappropriate wardrobe, sub-par social skills and slurred speech. I walked out a hero.
Now if only I could figure out what to do with that creepy cookie jar.