You gotta have a theme

Thursday, June 7, 2001 at 1:00am

Whenever our relatives come to visit, Sweetie and I have to dash around the house planting all the gifts they've given us over the years. It's not that we're ungrateful. It's just that a chamber pot filled with plastic poinsettias doesn't really go with our decor.

"Isn't that the birdhouse I gave you last Christmas?" my aunt asks, staring off the deck.

"Indeed it is," I say, praying it doesn't crash to the ground before she backs the Crown Victoria out of the driveway.

Squinting, she leans over the rail only to shrink back in horror.

"You painted over the half-moon!" she cries, glaring at me like I've drawn a smiley face on the Mona Lisa.

"It's the neighborhood building restrictions," I say soberly. "We're not allowed to hang outhouses in the trees."

One relative's treasure is a second relative's suspicion that the first relative was switched at birth in the nursery.

"It's your own fault," my little sister says. "You don't have a theme."

"A theme?" I frown.

I give this some thought, and Sis is absolutely right. When it comes to gifts, everyone in the family has a theme.

Sweetie's mom collects frogs; anything frog will do. My cousin collects antique pull-puppets. And my great-aunt Sadie collects eggs. Not Faberge

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